In official reports to the press following the EDL’s visit however, West Yorkshire police were keen to play down the event, presenting a low number of arrests as evidence of a well-policed and relatively trouble-free event. Another interpretation of the low arrest figures would be that the police had in fact let the EDL run amok, or at least treated them with kid gloves. In fact, of the seven people arrested in connection to the event, at least three of them had nothing to do with the EDL, and they were at neither the EDL’s rally nor the counter-protest that was held that day – one was arrested on sight in a central Leeds shopping arcade, while two were arrested the previous evening.
In the run-up to the EDL event, one could perhaps understand West Yorkshire police being nervous, the group had already gained a track record for chanting racial abuse and for fighting with the police, as they had in Nottingham only shortly before. Bearing in mind that West Yorkshire has its fair share of convicted racists and organized neo-Nazis one might have expected the police to pay them some attention. Yet, it was not the likes of Leeds fascist Tony White who West Yorkshire police were interested in, White appears to have been able to attend the demonstration without impediment, and is seen prominently in video footage from the day. Nor was notorious neo-Nazi ‘Wigan Mike’ Heaton, who would shortly afterwards be arrested on terrorism charges and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence, be prevented from attending the event. Likewise the numerous other hard-line fascists and convicted soccer thugs who regularly attend EDL rallies, all it seems were welcomed by West Yorkshire police.
In stark contrast to the police’s apparent ‘softly, softly’ approach to the extreme Right, it was anti-racists who the police chose to target. On the day itself, the policing of those opposing the EDL was certainly very different to that of the fascists, and in fact the police operation against perceived anti-racists began before the day itself.
In the run-up to the 31st October, West Yorkshire police visited a number of suspected political activists to ‘warn them off’ from attending the lawful anti-racist demonstration planned for the same day. At least one anti-racist also received an early morning call from a large number of burly policemen who told him in no uncertain terms that he “better not” be attending the anti-EDL protest.
Early in the evening of Friday 30th October, a middle-aged man was sat at home watching a film with a female dinner-guest when the front door was suddenly smashed in by a large force of police in riot gear. Armed and accompanied by dogs, the police handcuffed both parties and dragged them away to different police stations. There they were stripped of their clothes and held incommunicado. The home of the man arrested, a life-long anti-racist, was ransacked, and his computer and various other items were taken. The pair were held throughout the day of the EDL demo, and released without charge in the early evening. Around the same time, another suspected anti-racist who had been arrested on sight in Leeds city centre, was also released from custody.
Though none of the three have yet received an apology, no charges were ever brought against them, and they are now taking legal action against the police.
It seems apparent that the targeting and arrest of these people was a politically-motivated attempt to deny them the opportunity to attend a perfectly legal counter-demonstration to the EDL by unlawfully keeping them in custody. As such it is a gross abuse of power by West Yorkshire police. So however, are their attempts in the run-up to the event to intimidate suspected anti-racists from protesting, and if we are to ensure that these ‘police state’ tactics are not repeated, they need to be fully exposed and actively challenged.