A first-hand account of yesterday’s events in Birmingham, written from the “anti-fascist” perspective, can be found at the University of Birmingham’s news site, The Radish. The article is entitled “The 8th of August; Fascism and Anti-fascism on the streets of Birmingham”, and was written by “Takfas”. Below are some excerpts:
The protest began fairly peacefully, with the UAF leadership trying to lead the crowd in chants and the usual recruiting stalls out. The location seemed to be inviting kettling by the police, being just outside the Waterstones next to the Bullring, and the fact that it was a stationary demonstration meant we were milling around listening to a megaphone for some time. The crowd began to grow restless, wondering where the enemy they had come to confront was. The reason the EDL was nowhere to be seen was that their march was planned for an hour later, at 6:00. Why the UAF decided to call the demonstration earlier is unclear, but the extra time meant many left impatient and disillusioned, while others just grew angrier.
By half-past, the crowd was angry and ready for confrontation. People from the TUC moving to join the protests were mistaken for the EDL and pelted with sticks. The police, having already surrounded us, began to grow more wary. Small groups of 3 and 4 skinheads were observing us carefully. “They’ve got spotters,” the man next to me warned me. “If they’ve got any brains, they’ll try and surround us, come at us from all directions. Even fascists can figure that one out.” In lieu of any possibility for effective action, the crowd began to half-heartedly throw sticks, signs, and a glass bottle at the police, but fortunately they were stopped before the police were provoked.
Shortly after 6, with no sign of the EDL and mutterings of punctuality being expected of fascists, the crowd tried to surge down New Street towards where the EDL march was starting. What followed was the most leisurely-paced beginning to a riot I have ever seen…
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More police advanced towards me, planning on kettling what remained of the crowd on the High Street. A line had already formed before Carr’s Lane, and as I quickly found out trying to get back to New Street was futile — it was blocked off too. By this point, there were more confused shoppers than protestors confined to the high street. The UAF leadership, perhaps sensing what was coming, had long since disappeared. Any possibility for effective action appeared to have evaporated, at least to my eyes, so around 10 past 7 I was eventually able to slip past police lines and make my way back home.
Nobody seemed to know what was going on. Rather than the well-directed rage of Cable Street, confused anger seemed to be the order of the day. The UAF had no idea what to do with all the people they’d assembled, the crowd seemed to know little about how or where to confront the EDL, the EDL members who managed to reach the bullring must have been feeling almost suicidal, and even the police only seemed to have a vague idea of what to do. Whether you consider this a peaceful protest that got out of hand, or militant anti-fascism that was disorganised and misdirected, it appears that the only beneficiaries were the EDL themselves scoring a potential propaganda victory. How these events plays out in the wider media, and whether hate groups have been emboldened or discouraged, however, is yet to be seen.
Hat tip: Heroyalwhyness.