Today, the North West Infidels went to Bolton. There was a month of hype and build up, especially after the events in Liverpool on February 18, and in the past week threats and tough talk were bandied about on the internet. But ultimately, the demo fell flat on its face.
Having been first with the call out for opposition on the 24th, Liverpool Antifascists bussed 50 people to Bolton for around 11am. Away from the town centre, we met up with a car load of anti-fascists from Brighton. Other militants were already in the centre from Portsmouth and the midlands, as well as a local group from Manchester.
At this point, there was a heavy police presence at the train station and all the fash who came in, perhaps around 20, were holed up in a pub under the watchful eye of the cops. They were clearly watching out for people entering via other avenues as well, as no sooner had the coach parked up than an unmarked car produced two uniformed officers, asking questions. However, after being told twice that we were from an anti-cuts group liasing with comrades in Bolton for future protests, they were then happy to tell us which areas to avoid if we wanted to go into town for a pint and not bump into the far right!
Having thanked the cops for their concern and seen them on their way, we moved in the general direction of where the fascists were being herded, splintering into smaller groups to avoid being surrounded by police.
We were close to the town hall when a van pulled up, and the Liverpool "Scouse Nationalists," BNP, NWI and CXF - about ten, all told - piled out. Producing a large union flag branded "Combined Ex Forces" and placards, they marched into the market square chanting "Muslim bombers off our streets." They were very quickly met with police horses and two, including fan favourite Liam Pinkham, were lifted.
Whilst our scouts continued to watch this spectacle close up, the larger group headed into the main shopping area. There, we were able to meet up with a couple of groups of Asian lads who wanted to get involved, and regroup with our comrades from Manchester and Portsmouth. We also happened upon a small contingent of anti-fascists from Sheffield who had come up on the back of our call out.
Meanwhile, Bolton Unite Against Fascism marched through the town centre to their static demonstration. They were penned in by barricades and kept separate from the opposition, but contrary to earlier reports the two protests were set up in sight of one another.
As UAF marched into their pen, they were heckled by fascists in the pub, who chanted "EDL, EDL" and "get a wash." However, once the full compliment of around 100 militant anti-fascists took over the road, they were nowhere to be seen. Bar one woman who was jeered at as she tried to film us and a toothless goon who was laughed back into the pub when he started shouting that we were paedophiles.
Eventually, the NWI demo which numbered at about 20 was herded away by police. UAF then marched in the opposite direction, calling for those gathered on the streets to join them. The militants declined, however, instead preparing to make our way to the train station to head off the fascists.
We were prevented from taking the direct route by a hastily assembled police road block, and so moved as a block through the town centre and down various back streets to get there. When we arrived, the two police present hastily called for backup and soon several vans arrived on the scene. They didn't move on us there, but it was clear that they wanted to prevent us heading back into town and when we moved away from the station we were kettled by police whose numbers clearly matched ours.
Two anti-fascists were attacked as the kettle was formed, but the one who was arrested was released without charge before the kettle was lifted. At this point, local Asian youth had those fascists who weren't part of the demonstration cornered in a pub, and whilst we weren't getting back into town it was clear that there was no urgent need to. So we got our coach home, and ended the day with a well deserved, cold pint.
We had heard before the day began that there were going to be flash demos in Hyde and Heywood whilst the Bolton demo went on. However, even accounting for these (which were themselves small and met with local opposition) the turnout today by the Infidels was utterly abysmal. UAF outnumbered their opposition, and militant anti-fascists outnumbered both groups combined.
Today served well for linking up with other anti-fascist groups around the country, and our thanks go to comrades from Manchester, Sheffield, the Midlands, Brighton and Portsmouth for mobilising on the day. Not only did it mark an impressive showing against the NWI's dismal turnout, it shows the potential of a real mass movement of militant anti-fascists. The task now is to build and grow that movement.