Posted on August 10, 2009

Mass Brawl Between Right-Wing Group and Anti-Fascists As Race Riots Spill Onto Streets of Birmingham

David Wilkes, Daily Mail (London), August 10, 2009

Down on his knees as his attackers’ feet fly in, this man’s face was left a bloodied mess.

It was just one of the sickening scenes photographed when a riot erupted in a city centre after Right-wing protesters clashed with anti-fascist demonstrators.

Police knew both demonstrations were planned and let them go ahead as a sign of ‘a healthy democracy’.

Witness Gary Nichols said: ‘It started off with a group of white guys who were chanting, “England, England”. I thought they were just football fans, but then a larger group of black and Asian people turned up and it all kicked off. You had people burning the Union flag. People were being kicked, some weren’t anything to do with the protests.’

The rival groups had each held peaceful protests at different ends of the city centre before the trouble flared at around 7pm on Saturday.

The Right-wing protesters were from the English and Welsh Defence League, formed after British soldiers were abused by Islamic radicals at a homecoming parade in Luton earlier this year.

Their critics say they include soccer hooligans intent on inciting violence.

They claim to be a ‘multicultural organisation against militant Islam’ which has ‘no issues with Muslims who wish us no harm’.

The Unite Against Fascism group meanwhile is an umbrella organisation formed by the Anti-Nazi League and the National Assembly Against Racism in response to the rising electoral threat of the BNP.

On its website it urged people to join the protest to ‘show these thugs their brand of vicious racism is not wanted’.

Chaos erupted when the opposing factions clashed in New Street, which runs between where the respective protests where held.

Shopper Emily Bridgewater said: ‘There was stampeding and screaming. We ended up being locked in Primark, the shutters came down and the alarms went off as the riot police tried to regain control of the street.’

At least three people were injured before the worst of the violence was brought under control by 8.30pm.

Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood questioned the wisdom of allowing the two protests to be held simultaneously. He said: ‘Certainly if there was going to be rallies by both these groups at the same time it would always lead to confrontation.’

Police were aware the Right-wing protest had been planned through social networking sites but said no formal request to march was submitted. They had however been in talks with the UAF about its demonstration.

Chief Inspector Mark Payne said: ‘It is important to be aware we have no powers to ban or stop peaceful protests and would not seek to do so.

‘However, if criminal acts or racially aggravated incidents are reported, then police will arrest and prosecute anyone responsible.’