Solidarity protest, Mon 11th August, 1-2pm, Oxford Magistrates Court
By Nick Evans: Two antifascists are facing charges for demonstrating against the National Front in Oxford on Saturday 26th July. Another antifascist protester was issued a caution and a fourth was arrested and promptly de-arrested. We need to build solidarity with those arrested, and to hold the police to account for their latest attack on the right to protest.
The protesters were arrested on a demonstration against fascists who had come to Oxford from across the country. The fascists were attempting to exploit anger at sexual abuse by calling a protest against “Asian grooming”. There were about three dozen of the fascists who gathered in a pub in the centre of the city, and up to 80 antifascists on the counter-demonstration. Others were waiting near the city’s Central Mosque to defend it from attack by the fascists if necessary.
Before the day of the protest, the police had written to Oxford University security services warning about “a counter protest involving a number of left wing groups” and promising to mount “a significant operation and… deploy large numbers of uniformed officers within the city.” The police also wrote to local mosques asking people to stay away.
The arrests of three of the antifascists occurred when a section of them were allowed by police to pass from a square where the rest of the antifascists were gathered, and into the bus station, nearer to the NF. They were then separated from the rest by new police lines. Horses were used to police the antifascists, and three were arrested. While the anti-fascists were subject to heavy policing, two fascists were allowed to infiltrate the counter-demonstration, chanting “EDL, EDL”. The police took them to one side and then allowed them to re-join their group.
The National Front were allowed to march through the centre of the city while antifascist demonstrators were kept stationary. The counter-demonstration was then allowed to march, but was then kettled with horses in a side street on the other side of a square from the fascists. A fourth antifascist was arrested there, although he was quickly de-arrested.
The police took the arrested antifascists to another town, where they were held in a police station until the middle of the night. One was cautioned and another is facing a public order charge and obstruction of the police. A third protester has been charged with theft of an NF banner, and is banned from taking part in future protests by the bail conditions.
These arrests are part of a wider pattern of attacks on antifascist demonstrations, such as the mass arrest of 58 anti-fascist protesters at Westminster last June and 286 antifascist demonstrators at Tower Hamlets last September. There too the police used bail conditions to prevent people from attending other antifascist demonstrations. One anti-fascist protester Amy Jowett, who had her leg broken by police, is still waiting for action be taken against the perpetrator (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/police-face-quiz-over-kicks-that-shattered-bnp-protest-womans-leg-9561519.html)
Across Europe, we are seeing a rise of large fascist organisations. The success of antifascist activists in mobilising across communities to demonstrate against the fascists wherever they go has so far prevented this happening on the same scale in Britain. Attacks by the police on antifascist activists like those in Oxford make this harder.
This is why we need to build all the support we can for those arrested, and why we need to defend the right to protest against fascists wherever they appear. There will be hearing for those charged at Oxford Magistrates Court at 2pm on Monday 11th August. Anybody able to get there should be there to show them the solidarity they deserve. A solidarity statement will follow shortly.
Solidarity with arrested protesters, Monday 11th August, 1-2pm, Oxford Magistrates Court
Have these protesters been criminalised despite the case being dismissed? (The Guardian 15th April)
Anti-Fascist 5 walk out of court vindicated (DtRtP 15th April)
Amy Jowett whose leg was broken by police on an anti-fascist protest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GonzjlM_mcU