It has been a bit scary in Brighton today. The so-called March for England, took place this afternoon organized by the neo-Nazi English Defence League (no link to their website from me, you’ll observe). There was a massive police presence in town, at first concentrated on the seafront where the march was routed.
There were localized brawls between marchers and counter-demonstrators from the outset, and after the march ended various splinter groups from both dispersed around the city trying to cause disruption. The town has been at a standstill since about 2.30 as police sealed off isolated disturbances and protected bystanders. I was with a group of people near the Sea Life centre when half a dozen EDL thugs began hurling abuse and moving towards us in a very threatening way. The police intervened promptly and the agressors moved off. They may have subsequently joined a melee that then developed in the Old Steine and was attended by riot police but which did not last very long.
The number of marchers was about 150 (my estimate) with a similar number of counter-demonstrators; they were probably outnumbered by the Police, who had brought in reinforcements from elsewhere to assist with Operation Wheeler, their name for today’s huge activity. I saw vans from Hertfordshire, Norfolk and the City of London.
Anyway, with no serious injuries reported, I’d say Operation Wheeler was a success. I’ve heard that 13 arrests were made, for a variety of offences. I think the police did a very good job in extremely difficult circumstances.
Why have this march in Brighton? I don’t know, but judging by what I heard, the typical EDL marcher is not very fond of gay people and they probably came here because of Brighton’s large gay community and embrace of other forms of diversity. Racism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice seem often to be acquired as a package. To be honest, I think the EDL just came looking for trouble and didn’t really care that much where it was to be found.
Though the only violent acts I saw were carried out by EDL supporters there were extremists on the other side also spoiling for a fight. I think it would have been far more effective if the counter-protest had been totally peaceful. If thugs come looking for trouble, the worse thing to do is meet them at their level because that’s exactly what they want. The way to defeat people like the EDL is to behave better than they do which, based on today’s evidence, is by no means difficult..
The seafront remained closed for some time after the march had finished…
You can’t see very well in this image, but in the background a group of EDL supporters are being detained by the police.
These police horses are right next to “Legends”. There was a nice bit of banter going on between them and the largely gay clientele drinking out front.
Police standing by, just in case, as business returns to normal
Police vans from Norfolk and the City of London. I can’t be sure, but I think the seagull was local.
Old Steine, around 4pm. Ongoing disturbances in the background contained by police; nothing too serious by the look of it.