Press Release: Anti-Fascist Network statement on Saturday 7th September EDL demonstration

12/09/2013 by socialistfight

Anti-Fascist NetworkPress Release: Anti-Fascist Network statement on Saturday 7th September EDL demonstration

The Metropolitan Police arrested over 280 anti-fascist activists, local community members, and passersby in East London on 7 September,  as up to 700 English Defence League supporters were allowed to march  over Tower Bridge and rally at Aldgate without encountering any mass  opposition.

A large community demonstration was restricted to Altab Ali Park,  well out of sight of the EDL’s march route and rally point. A bloc of  around 600 within the demonstration, coordinated by the Anti-Fascist  Network (AFN), attempted to hold a march to get within sight of the  EDL’s route and present a visible opposition, which was then blocked and kettled by police. Despite police attacks the front of the AFN bloc did manage to get within sight of the EDL march, meaning the only political opposition the racists saw on the day was a direct result of the AFN  mobilisation.

Sarah Smith from London Anti-Fascists said: “The number of people who joined the Anti-Fascist Network  bloc on the day shows that there is a real mood for forms of  anti-fascism that go beyond static rallies where mainstream politicians  and religious leaders spout liberal platitudes. The 600 people who  attempted to march with AFN on Saturday shows that a moderate, ‘respectable’ anti-fascism based on deference to the state and the  political status quo is no longer the only show in town.”

Anti-fascists, independent legal observers, and people who were just  passing by were detained on the street for over six hours before the  police announced their intention to make mass arrests. Arrestees were  taken to police stations on the outer extremities of London — including  Colindale, Sutton, and elsewhere — mostly under the pretext that they  had committed an offence under the Public Order Act. Their alleged ‘crime’ was to march down a street the police didn’t want them to march  down.

Some arrestees were held for up to 15 hours in total. Were it not for the work of arrestee support groups, many of those detained would have  been thrown out of police stations in the middle of the night on the  outskirts of London with little way of getting home. Most have now been  released with highly restrictive bail conditions preventing them from  opposing the EDL and other racist groups.

Tony Dixon from the Anti-Fascist Network said: “These mass arrests, following a similar operation at an  anti-BNP demonstration in May, show how the state is using political  policing to criminalise protest and intimidate people out of taking  political action. Only the tamest, most moderate forms of protest are  sanctioned; anything else is met with police violence, kettling, and  mass arrests.”

Val Swain of the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), added: “Carrying out mass arrests on any demonstration is an  excessive and draconian measure. In this case it was clearly not  necessary to prevent disorder – many, if not most of the arrests were  carried out after the EDL had left the area.”In this case the police have taken 286 sets of names, addresses,  fingerprints and dna. It has been a highly effective data gathering  exercise. They have also imposed bail conditions preventing all of those arrested from participating in future protests – even though they have  not been charged, let alone convicted of any offence. The police have  had a successful operation to disrupt, deter and prevent anti-fascist  protest.”

The Anti-Fascist Network is a network of independent anti-fascists  and anti-racist groups from across Britain, fighting the far right on  the basis of direct action and working-class politics. Banner

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