The following is a collboratively written “report back” on the June 3rd Liverpool anti-EDL demonstration, as narrated by various member of Edinburgh Antifascist Action.
The “English Defence League” are a far-right nationalist group with strong nazi affiliations and several known neo-Nazi members. Much like similar groups operating in the 2000’s (The BNP etc), the EDL use strongly nationalistic, racialized narratives to point the finger of blame at the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, including immigrants, non-whites, women and the LGBTQ+ community. No doubt seeking to capitalise on the recent attacks, the EDL organised an “anti-terror”demonstration in Liverpool on June 3rd. We at Edinburgh Antifascist Action, along with antifascist and anti-racist groups around the country, organised to resist and block their proposed march which was planned to go through Liverpool city center.
When we got to Liverpool, we joined a number of other antifascist groups, including the Red Front Republic, Mersyside antifascists and other local antifascists in occupying the steps that the EDL march was planned to begin at. There were an encouraging number of protesters in position well in advance of the arrival of the fascists. There was also a disturbingly large, militarised police presence, including a helicopter and several mounted police, as well as fully equipped riot police and vans, several hours before the demo was even scheduled to begin. It was immediately clear that the police were fully intent on violently protecting the fascist EDL march in the face of opposition. They attempted a wide kettle (a police formation which traps protestors inside a police cordon, often for hours), only preventing people they had decided were protesters from leaving, so a number of us were free to leave if wearing plain clothes. Their poor judgement allowed us the freedom of movement which enabled a highly mobile and rapid response to the subsequent manoeuvres on the part of the police and EDL march.
The police invoked powers from section 60 of the Public Order Act, requiring everyone to remove face-masks. This public order act criminalised obscuring your face and even resulted in several officers blazenly demanding that demonstrators remove sunglasses and hats, despite it being a bright day. It is well known that fascists and various ultranationalist groups regularly use photographs and videos taken on the day to identify and target opposition figures with violent harassment and intimidation. Thus, obscuring your identity as such demonstrations, where both the police and fascists seek to identify antifascists to pursue recriminations, is an act of self defence. The use of these draconian powers served only to make demonstrating less safe for antifascists, and enabled both the EDL and the florescent fascists to identify and target vulnerable protestors. However, it also presented us with a number of opportunities to engage with the local community, showing a friendlier face and answering questions on who we are, what we stand for, and why we cover our faces. This ultimately worked in our favour, as the community came together to defend itself, and our cooperation with each other’s tactics was key to our success. Additionally, due to the large number of militant antifascists present, the section 60 was only able to be partially enforced, as demanding hundreds of people remove face coverings continuously over several hours proved unfeasible for the ill prepared and overstretched police force.
As the EDL were arriving, a sizable black bloc came charging down the high street, instantly breaking the kettle, and we were free to join the bloc and chase down the fash. They were shortly penned in against one side of the street, with two rows of riot police between us and them. Without provocation, the pigs began shoving protesters and charging us with horses, in order to create a space for the fascists to march. They made it about 40 feet before being completely surrounded by antifascists on all sides, bringing their pathetic march to a complete standstill. The mounted police were prevented from clearing a path through protesters, who sat down in front of them chanting “no pasaran!” in the vein of the Spanish civil war antifascists of yore, challenging the police to either trample peaceful protesters or give up at their sick attempt to force the people of Liverpool to tolerate a nazi march.
We successfully stopped the EDL from marching, by using the police’s own methods against them. It would be almost two hours before the police managed to break free from our kettle, which has surrounded both the EDL and their shameless police bodyguards for the day. Despite the sizeable black bloc presence, this would not have been possible if it weren’t for the active participation of the local people of Liverpool, who, upon seeing the success our tactics had at interrupting the march, joined us in surrounding the fascists, which freed up the bloc to outmaneuver several police attempts to kettle us or break free, while still keeping the EDL penned in. It was so inspiring to see so many people from all walks of life taking action together for the common good, without need for hierarchy or infrastructure that the police depend on heavily to get anything done.
The police attempted to break free with the use of three riot vans, several horses, and a dog unit for intimidation, but the bloc held firm and we weren’t moved until the police physically attacked us. Several people were punched in the neck, and others were kicked or thrown into each other. Our fantastic team of legal observers caught everything, so officer #888 and his mates might want to start looking for other employment. While we were defending ourselves from this violence, the fash were closely escorted back to their coach, and sent on their way. Rumour has it, that as some of the EDL were dispersing through Liverpool, they were chased into a local sainsbury’s, only to face the wrath of an angry “red nan”, who challenged the cowardly thugs to a fist fight!
A number of trophies were collected, including several fascists caps, a few picket signs, and a flag, which will no doubt be disposed of by their victorious new owners in due course!
Overall, the day was a fantastic success for both regional and national antifascist groups, as well as courageous locals, who united together to defy the heavy handed (yet under prepared) police and see the racist EDL March ground to a halt, pelted with all manner of objects and finally dispersed after hours of being kettled. The EDL have been on the decline as a group for years and hopefully decisive defeats like these will see them and similar groups resigned to the history books, where they firmly belong. They left dejected, humiliated, unsuccessful and hounded by antifascists all the way.
Unfortunately, in an unrelated break in, the hire van we took down to the demo had it’s windows smashed and many of our phones and valuables were stolen. We are consequently fundraising the costs to relieve the burden on our group and keep our comrades in the fight!
You can contribute to our fundraiser here: Van Repair Fund!