Police provoke 'riot' at London anti-fascist march

Issue 

By Helen Shaw

and Duncan Chapple

LONDON — In the largest anti-racist mobilisation in Britain since the 1970s, 50,000 mainly young people marched in protest towards the British National Party headquarters on October 16. The march's progress was prevented by a 7000-strong police line. The Tory media's vitriolic account of the violence that followed has been retailed as far afield as Australia.

In the days leading up to October 16, the quite hysterical press and police campaign prepared the capital for a riot. The reality was a planned violent provocation by police of the rising anti-racist movement in order to victimise those who were prepared to defend the marches.

The march had barely progressed half a mile before grinding to a halt in front of police lines blocking the previously arranged route. The demonstration became bottled up, with riot police at intervals along its whole length. Having sealed off all possible routes, leaving the marchers trapped with nowhere to go, the "impartial" forces of the state moved in to protect the BNP.

The demonstration marched into a well-coordinated police trap which created the sort of confrontation they were looking for.

"I was on a raised verge near the front of the march and able to see all that happened in the two hours' stalemate when the police would not allow the march to proceed along their own imposed route. I saw the repeated charges made by the riot police, heavily protected in full riot gear, and also the mounted police on a defenceless crowd", reported one eyewitness.

The government and the media then tried to portray sections of the demonstrators as mindless hooligans bent on violence. It was the most determined effort to criminalise a demonstration, aided and abetted by the media, since the poll tax rebellion.

London's Metropolitan Police have been trying to suggest that police on the march were the victims of vicious attacks and that this was the source of the conflict on the march.

Surveillance on the march was heavy. Police systematically photographed every section of the march as it moved off. Video cameras captured every move made by demonstrators.

The Sun, Britain's largest-circulation daily, has been printing photographs of anti-racists defending the demonstration against police assault. Lstg1000 is offered "for each thug convicted". Already, according to a front-page article, a "leftie postman" has been fingered by colleagues.

The police manipulation of the march was summed up by the choice to send a black officer, Les Turner, into the front line assault against the protesters. They set that officer up to get a beating and then claimed that — because demonstrators defended themselves against an officer who happened to be black — the demonstrators were as racist as the BNP.

[The anti-BNP march was a united action by the Anti-Nazi League, initiated by the Socialist Workers Party, and Youth Against Racism in Europe, initiated by the Labour Militant Party. The Anti-Racist Alliance, backed by sections of the British Labour Party and union movement, especially blacks, organised its own demonstration on the same day.]

The ARA demonstration in Trafalgar Square, including delegations and banners from 20 national trade unions, was much smaller, only 3000 or 4000. The ARA were clearly outmobilised. The building of the ARA has represented an important achievement and it was sickening to see the ARA leaders involved in the flurry of denunciation of the unity march.

If there had been one united march, with the sponsorship from the official labour movement which ARA has behind it, and the youth mobilising potential of the far-left forces behind the unity march, then a huge and united rebuff of the fascists could have been achieved.

From the British paper Socialist Outlook.