Councillors and anti-racists in Preston are furious over police decisions about the protest by the racist English Defence League (EDL) on 27 November.
Preston independent socialist councillor Michael Lavalette spoke to Socialist Worker about Monday’s council meeting. “It was one of the most shocking moments in all my time as a councillor,” he said.
“We are asking that EDL supporters are not allowed to gather in pubs but the police are going to allow them to do it—and they will be marched through the city centre.
“The police admitted that Unite Against Fascism (UAF) had booked the Flag Market before the EDL. But they said they were giving it to the EDL anyway.”
A number of councillors raised angry objections to the plans, asking why UAF could not be given the Flag Market.
“It will be Preston’s shame if they are allowed to march on our streets,” says Michael. “I think it is vitally important that we don’t give this ground to racists and fascists.”
The police and Tory councillors asked the council to put out a statement calling for no counter protest against the EDL. But it was defeated as councillor after councillor spoke about the need to confront racists and Nazis.
“There was no vote on whether we accepted the police proposal and, unfortunately, the council did agree to allow the chief executive to apply for a ban of marches on the day,” says Michael.
“I spoke against this, arguing it will not prevent the EDL from holding a static protest or the police from marching them from one end of the city to the other.”
Michael has come under attack from the police for his interview in Socialist Worker last week about the protest. But he is sticking by his account and has the backing of other councillors.
He explained how the police seemed to think UAF was “as much of a problem, if not more so, than the EDL”.
“I agree with Michael’s account,” Labour councillor Dave Wilson told Socialist Worker. “I was astounded at the approach of the police. I live in an area that has a church, a mosque and a Hindu temple—people respect each other. The EDL threatens that unity. That’s why I will be on the counter protest.”
Another Labour councillor, Drew Gale, agreed: “I was perplexed by the police’s approach. I don’t agree with those who say we should not protest—we need greater numbers than the EDL.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has announced that it will be investigating police behaviour during the UAF protest against the EDL in Bolton on 20 March.
Protest against EDL: 27 November, Preston, 12 noon