Sunday, May 30, 2010

We opposed EDL in Newcastle. We held the Toon

Published: Sunday 30 May 2010 16:17 by Gerrybeee | Share

Tagged as: social_struggles
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Report of anti-racist activity in response to EDL march in Newcastle 29th May 2010, from North East Against Racism.

We showed them racism would not go unchallenged! EDL confined to Bigg Market. Anti-racists the dominant presence in toon.

Thanks to everyone who took part today - on all the anti-racist events. As far as we know nobody of ours got arrested. There was no police brutality as there had been on other EDL protests. The EDL were confined to the Bigg Market, did not have a free run through town. Lots of passers-by were asking what was going on and were informed by leaflet. We had lots of people signing petitions against racism. All in all, a qualified success. So thanks all. The work goes on. We'll be meeting to de-brief (No that's not something dirty) on Weds. S+S

Actually, I think it was the best possible outcome. We estimate about 700 EDL (c350 in coaches from outside and about the same, though harder to estimate, local). NEAR (North East Against Racism) had a stall in the centre of town, the Monument, alongside the TUC event. We had about a hundred people signing petitions and allocated to a steward. Lots more came because of our leaflets and stayed with the TUC event (with kids, too old to run around, etc.)

At about 11.30, we heard that the coaches were moving off from Washington services with a police escort and that the local EDL were round central station (their assembly point) We ran there with banners and managed to confront them across police lines. We then did a bit of running around to try and get behind the police. (I'm too old for this kind of thing.)
Police started blocking streets (though Ncl town centre has lots of wide streets, cross streets and alleys, so it wasn't easy for them either). We heard that some EDL were at the Monument so we re-grouped there. A group of them were identified and there was a spontaneous demo round the Metro entrance. Lots of passers-by stopped to ask what was going off and we leafletted them. So the anti-racists were the presence in the town centre.

The EDL were heavily escorted by the police into the Bigg Market area. (Bigg Market is where the drinking goes on, so there was no public to speak of at that time). A lot of our people then went off to the UAF march which was assembling near St James football ground. We advised that they were likely to be kettled and wouldn't get anywhere the EDL, but we agreed to keep in contact by mobile. The UAF march was stopped at Newgate (about 300yds from the Bigg Market) but not kettled, i.e. people could leave the back of the march. UAF march estimates of between 800 and 1500
Police warned us that our demo would only be allowed for an hour, and there were moves to clear us from the Monument, so we fell back to our fall-back point, on Northumberland St. By then there were a lot fewer of us, so we decided to make our way back to the top of the Bigg Market to watch the EDL being dispersed and to check if any breakaways were headed to the West End. We had spotters on the route up to the West End all day, and a group of c20 went up to check. (They mostly lived there anyway).

I texted all the stewards at the end of the day to check everyone was safe, and to my knowledge there were no arrests and no assaults on our side.
We will be holding a debriefing meeting on Weds and probably a bit of a social after. I think we did good work. We talked to a lot of people beforehand and on the day. We held the town centre and the EDL were marginalised. If this was part of their grand plan, I don't think they can consider that things are going their way.

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