Last night, as a result of pressure from students and the threat of a disruptive anti-fascist demonstration, Liverpool University cancelled today's mayoral debate. It was to feature the National Front, BNP and English Democrats, and stopping it was decisively a victory. Liverpool Antifascists held a rally today to underline this point.
Upon hearing that the debate was definitely cancelled, Unite Against Fascism called off their own demonstration set for today. This was undoubtedly the reason that far less people turned up than would have otherwise, but there was little to be done about that. For LiverAF, our concerns were simple: that fascists would likely still be in town looking to cause trouble, and that the absence of anti-fascists would only give them more confidence - even after their candidates in the elections had been denied a platform.
Outside the Liverpool Guild of Students, there was an extremely short rally whereby a LiverAF speaker explained why we hold a no platform position, and leaflets about the mayoral election were handed out. Then we got the news that we had expected: around twenty fascists were in town and headed our way.
Knowing that they would be looking to cause affray, we quickly decided that we didn't want to present a static target and ought to confront them head on. We headed away from the Guild, with a couple of nervous police liason officers following us at a distance, in the direction they had been spotted. Sure enough, once we reached the Metropolitan Cathedral, there were cries of "there they are," as the boneheads came storming out of a side street.
Liam Pinkham and Joe Killen - BNP candidate for Tranmere and Birkenhead - led the charge. They threw a milkshake in our general direction, whilst Pinkham and Killen both went for me. They held my arms down and, as near as I can tell, gave me a group hug. There were a couple of punches thrown, and I actually felt the one that touched my neck. "Touched" being the operative word.
The love-in lasted seconds, though I was vaguely aware of other scuffles close by, before they were pushed back and the police stepped in to drag them over the road. Needless to say, we followed and the police pushed them back further. Soon after, perhaps realising the stupidity of trying to assault someone in view of CCTV and police, they disappeared back into the crowd. There were a few local faces in there, but most were National Front members bussed in from around the region. They had an NF banner with David Lane's fourteen words on it, a union flag and a George's Cross. One NF woman also sported an absolutely darling union flag mini top hat!
With the police now planted between the opposing sides, the result was a really loud and aggressive slanging match. This lasted for a while before a police van blocked the two groups from each other's sight and silence descended over the confrontation. The fascists broke it by crossing the road and moving forward so we once more faced each other, but the police soon blocked this and shoved them back to where they stood.
Anti-fascists then took the initiative, continually crossing the road to break police lines and move forward so that the cops had to force the fascists back to keep us apart. Eventually, they were forced to herd them away altogether whilst we kept pushing forward. They retaliated for this by nicking a comrade for a public order offence, leading to a stand off with the police. We marked our territory by declaring that we weren't leaving until he was released, which caused them to hesitate. However, eventually one officer accused us of blackmail and the van drove off.
We then decided to march away from the police, and regroup at St Anne's Police station in support of our arrested comrade. I imagine the sight of twenty odd anti-fascists in the foyer wasn't too welcome, and after delaying as long as possible they were released without charge.
What today underlines is that we are returning to the politics of physical force on the streets. The far-right have given up on any attempts at "respectability," and are in this for violent confrontation with the left and the organised working class. Against that, we need to always be willing to confront them and to take direct action against fascism.
All in all, today wasn't a good day for the fascists. Around the country, members of the Infidels have been picked off by anti-terror police. In Liverpool, their candidates' star turn was shut down. And when they took to the streets, matching our numbers only by bussing people in, Liverpool Antifascists met them head on and saw them forced off the streets. Well done to all anti-fascists involved today, and let's hope that more are willing to get stuck in next time around.