Tomorrow looks set to see a massive mobilisation of Bristolians against the fascist-linked English Defence League, which has organised a march through the city on Saturday 14 July.
Several months of preparation under the banner of 'We Are Bristol' has brought together a wide variety of groups and individuals opposed to the EDL, which provocatively chose to come to Bristol on the day of the LGBT Pride event, which takes place on College Green. Amongst those involved in WAB are Bristol Anarchist Federation, Unite Against Fascism, the South West Trades Union Congress and a host of others.
Despite a collective agreement at WAB meetings to not liaise with police (and so end up penned in well away from the EDL as has happened elsewhere), Avon & Somerset Constabulary now claims an agreement has been reached whereby counter-demonstrators will remain at Castle Park. This is the other side of the Centre from the EDL procession, which officially wends from Redcliffe Wharf to Queen Square, though is thought by some to be starting from Temple Meads train station. Many from WAB dispute any such agreement was made, and despite police warnings for anti-fascists to stay out of the Centre, many insist they will stick to the original meeting point of 11am at the Fountains opposite the Hippodrome on St Augustine Parade.
Whilst police have been said to have told anti-EDL activists not to assemble at the Fountains, and not to begin their march before 1pm, the Avon & Somerset Constabulary website makes no reference to any specific ban or powers under which they might enforce this.
The Network for Police Monitoring - a national coalition of groups with experience of political policing - notes that the police action in Bristol follows a similar template elsewhere in the country where local opposition to the EDL has been targeted for a range of measures, from 'kettles' and harassment to use of public order stop-and-search powers and even the Children's Act, often in a manner which looks not unlike racial profiling.
The Bristol ABC prisoner support group has a handy bust card containing a quick checklist of your rights in case you are arrested (or threatened with arrest) which you can print off. It also recommends you note down the number of a local solicitor's with experience of contesting protest arrests, such as Sansbury Douglas (0117 955 2663) or Niall Arnall (0117 909 8898).
Stay safe out there, Sparklanders!
NB The picture in this post is of the 1932 Old Market unemployment protest, which the police similarly tried to prevent from marching into the centre of town. (Via the Bristol Culture blog.)