Complaints from individuals about the behaviour of the police during the protest in Bolton should be made via the complaints links here.
The Lancashire Division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) notes with great concern the behaviour and actions of the police officers who were on duty, presumably under the control of the Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable, Peter Fahy and the Bolton Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Steve Hartley, on Saturday 20th March at the Unite Against Fascism protest against the English Defence League in Bolton town centre. Several of our members were present to defend the freedom of all the different communities in Bolton to co-exist without threat of violence and witnessed the events that occurred during the day.
Any impartial assessment of the manner in which the officers were deployed would clearly show that the GMP was not “committed to increasing the public’s confidence that we are dealing with the issues that matter to them” and nor to ”being open and accountable about our performance” but planned instead to make it easier for the self- proclaimed racist EDL to behave in ways that in any other context would have been judged as illegal, as its members have been repeatedly violent towards ethnic minorities and came to Bolton intending to provoke further violence. The evidence for this was clearly available on several EDL-linked websites in advance - and even more so since. The EDL were repeatedly threatening violence and were actually violent – there was a lot of racist chanting and a considerable number of missiles were thrown across the square but at no time was this seen to be addressed by any officers. The GMP then distorted reports of the events that day to protect both themselves and the EDL and to criticise only those opposing the EDL.
At the same time, the police tactics used against those opposing fascism and racism were clearly not aimed at building “more cohesive, empowered and active communities” nor, in any acceptable sense ensuring that they were making “communities safer”, both key elements of the ‘National Community Safety Plan’.
We assert this because of the use of inflammatory tactics such as:
- The use of riot police against UAF supporters when there was no violence being shown
- The corralling of sections of the crowd and denying others access to the protest (when it is unclear what legal right the Police have to effectively detain those who have committed no offence)
- The use of video surveillance, to send in targeted riot police to grab and hustle off anyone who attempted to speak out against the EDL.
- The repeated and totally false implication by police representatives that the higher number of arrests of UAF supporters should be seen as indicative of the level of violence shown by them. It indicates only the higher level of targeting of the UAF groups by the police.
- We further assert that many citizens of Bolton also simply wished to speak out against the EDL. They were prevented from doing so by being stopped from joining others in Victoria Square. Defending yourself through speech is not a criminal or civil offence in our democracy.
We urgently call on the executive Director and all the other 18 members of the Greater Manchester Police Authority to investigate the way that the GMP behaved in Bolton and we call on it to acknowledge the repeated tactical failings of its senior officers, which could too readily have lead to tragic consequences on several occasions. Lessons could readily be learned from the much more measured and effective work of the police forces recently in Blackpool and Preston.