Saturday, 20 March 2010

'Anti'-fascist protesters arrested in droves as EDL attend Bolton demo

Dozens of people have been arrested during rival demonstrations by the English Defence League and opponents in Bolton.

Police said 45 people had been taken into custody during the political protests in the town centre.

Hundreds of officers struggled to keep apart the chanting crowds, who were separated by a 30ft wide barrier in Victoria Square.

Greater Manchester Police said the majority of those arrested were in a group of anti-EDL protestors, who began their protest earlier in the day just before 11am.

Some of the protestors, who included members of trade unions, local mosques and the Unite Against Fascism movement, had earlier tried to enter an area designated for the EDL to gather in and were forced back by a wall of police.

The bulk of EDL supporters – who had assembled at separate sites - were escorted to the south side of the square at 1pm under heavy police escort.

Many wore English Defence League hoodies and face masks and carried the St George’s flag and the US star and stripes along with a number of political banners.

Police on horseback and specialist dog handlers were used to control the crowd on both sides.

The protest reached a dramatic peak at 3pm – four hours into the event – when a number of bottles and cans were thrown by both sides.

Dozens of officers with riot shields began to move EDL supporters from the square after some protestors lifted up metal barriers separating the two groups.

Police reported 2,000 EDL supporters at the protest and 1,500 from opposing groups.

Among those arrested were UAF joint secretary Weymann Bennett, who organised the protest, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder, and Martin Smith, who runs the Love Music Hate Racism campaign.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, who is leading the operation for Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: "Today in Bolton we have seen groups of people, predominantly associated with the UAF, engaging in violent confrontation.

“It is clear to me that a large number have attended with the sole intention of committing disorder and their actions have been wholly unacceptable. Turning their anger onto police officers they acted with, at times, extreme violence and their actions led to injuries to police officers, protesters and members of the public.

“The police are not and should not be the target of such violence and anger and this protest and the actions of some of the protesters is roundly condemned by GMP and by Bolton Council.

“Were it not for the professionalism and bravery of police officers many others would have been seriously injured."

Police will now review CCTV of the incident to identify people involved in inciting or committing disorder.

Video to follow...

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