Unite Against Fascism has hit back at those who condemned its protest on Saturday, demanding an inquiry into police behaviour.
“We were right to protest – it is vital to protest against fascists,” said Martin Smith from UAF, speaking at a press conference on Monday.
“We went intent on holding a peaceful protest – but police waded in attacking and arresting people.
“UAF protesters were treated appallingly to protect the racist and fascist EDL.”
Russell Fraser, an independent legal observer, told the press he found the “unwarranted violence” of the police against UAF protesters “hard to understand”.
Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of UAF, said, “It’s a shame the police didn’t apply the force and determination they applied to anti-fascists in Bolton to the fascist EDL.
“They seem to have forgotten the lessons from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry – they must target the perpetrators of violence.”
Despite claims of UAF violence, the police have admitted there were only two police injuries – one broke his finger and the other was bitten by his dog.
UAF is mounting a defence campaign for Weyman Bennett, national UAF joint secretary, and Rhetta Moran, Greater Manchester UAF joint secretary, who were both arrested on Saturday.
“I’ve been going on anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrations for 30 years,” said Weyman. “It’s the first time I’ve been arrested.”
Weyman was arrested and bailed on a charge of “suspicion of conspiracy to organise violent disorder” – allegations he strongly refutes.
“My bail conditions say I am not allowed to attend any EDL or UAF meeting or gathering anywhere until 10 May 2010,” said Rhetta Moran. “This is a gross violation of my human rights.”
“While I was detained in Bolton police station, police took my house keys, went to my home, took papers and copied files from my computer.”
Weyman Bennett said wherever the EDL assembled, UAF would protest.
“They are going to Dudley on Easter weekend,” he said, “and we are going to organise the broadest protest against them.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP, speaking at the UAF press conference on Monday
‘This appears to be a concerted effort by the police to treat Unite Against Fascism [UAF] as equivalent to the EDL.
Weyman Bennett has stood steadfast in his opposition to racism and fascism. I am appalled at his treatment.
To those who call on UAF not to organise against the EDL, I would remind them of Cable Street in the 1930s when Jewish and non-Jewish people stood together and said no to the fascists.
Or the 1970s, when the late Bernie Grant and myself organised a march against the National Front in Wood Green. The history of the anti‑racist movement is that we challenge them in every way.’