We Are Bristol want to thank you once again for the support given by trade union and other groups to our peaceful counter-demonstration against the racist EDL on Saturday July 14th. More than 1000 joined our march and rally and we were proud to march together to join Pride at the end of our demonstration. We also note that more than £500,000 was spent by the authorities in the city in accommodating the EDL march, yet at the same time a grant of just £30,000 has been denied to the organisers of St. Pauls Carnival, meaning that this year the city’s prime multi-cultural event will not take place due to lack of funding for security.
However, we have since heard of an astonishing attack by Liberal Democrat councillors on two of the speakers at our rally, Marvin Rees, Labour Mayoral candidate and Mike Wollacott (Labour Councillor for Brislington East and Communication Workers’ Union representative). The statement from the Liberal Democrats is printed below in full, and speaks for itself.
We would like to offer maximum support to our colleagues from the city’s Labour group and ask you urgently to offer your trade union branch and personal support to the following statement which we will send to the City Council leader and to the press and media.
“We Are Bristol are shocked at the attack by leading Liberal Democrats in the city on Marvin Rees (Labour Mayoral candidate) and Councillor Mike Wollacott for giving their support to the rally against the racist EDL on Saturday July 14th. Our march and rally was supported by over 1000 people, including trade union branches and community organisation across the city. Yet the Liberal Democrats in their statement have chosen to denigrate the people of Bristol who have dared to stand up against the racism and bigotry of the EDL. We call upon the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their statement immediately, and to respect our political representatives’ right to do their proper job of speaking up for the people of Bristol.”
Please rush your signatures of support to Martin Upchurch (We Are Bristol) firstname.lastname@example.org or WeAreBristol@ymail.com.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PRESS STATEMENT
BRISTOL Labour mayor candidate Marvin Rees was today (Thursday, July 19) branded naïve and weak for his handling of the run-up to Saturday’s violence in the heart of the city.
A well-policed march by the English Defence League had largely gone off peacefully when clashes broke out between police and counter-protesters from the We Are Bristol group, which was formed by and associated with Unite Against Fascism. UAF have been repeatedly linked with violent street disturbances.
The names of Mr Rees and other prominent Bristol Labour politicians appeared on UAF (We Are Bristol) leaflets.
Lib Dem executive member for community safety Gary Hopkins said: “The Labour Party were well aware that there was likely to be street violence but still persisted in supporting direct counter-demonstration and, it is reported, speaking at the rally.
“Labour councillor Mike Woolacott faces calls to step down from his position of responsibility on the council after he tried to put pressure on the council leader to speak on behalf of UAF and then ignored police attempts to bring order by encouraging a potentially dangerous assembly in a provocative place. Does Mr Rees support Councillor Woolacott or not?
“This was totally irresponsible. Marvin Rees has shown himself to be weak, easily led and – if he didn’t realise violent disturbances might follow – naïve, as well.
“Let’s be quite clear how serious this situation could have been.
The violence could have been a great deal worse, had it not been for excellent policing and the calm, statesmanlike approach of the Muslim community.“
In a BBC interview at the weekend Mr Rees was asked: “Were you pleased with what happened, the violence, the arrests?” He declined to answer.
The cost to the taxpayer of policing the EDL march has been put at around £500,000. Up to 1,000 officers were involved in the operation.
The Muslim community publicly called on people to ignore the EDL event, allowing it to pass off quietly. And this position was supported by Labour councillor Faruk Choudhury.
Interviewed by Paul Barltrop on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Mr Rees admitted his name was on the counter-protest leaflet but added:
“There’s another story behind that.”
He refused to elaborate. And when he was asked whether a “big counter demonstration wasn’t … bound to inflame things”, he said: “There was a whole mix of people there.”
Among the counter-protesters, he said, were people who had “delivered fantastically for the city over the years”, community activists who had “worked hard to build communities across the city”.
Gary Hopkins said: “It beggars belief that a candidate for the highest office in Bristol should have let unelected Labour activists pull his strings and force him into the very embarrassing position he finds himself in now.
“It was the same with the other Labour leaders in Bristol. We urged all the other parties on the city council to sign up to a simple statement of support for the police and acknowledgement of the statesmanlike position adopted by the Muslim leaders. Labour alone refused to sign this statement.
“The Liberal Democrat administration was as opposed to the EDL march as anyone else.
“But we recognized – as the Muslim community did – that it would be better controlled if it was allowed to go ahead and we worked closely with the police and the Muslim leaders to help ensure things went off peacefully.
“Ms McCarthy, however, allowed herself to be reported in the Post calling for a ban on the EDL march, which, again, was wholly irresponsible.
“She has some explaining to do. Was she deliberately stirring up passion and anger for political gain or was she genuinely so ignorant of the facts that she thought a ban was possible?
“This follows last year’s inaccurate tweeting from Stokes Croft that police found unhelpful in dealing with the disturbances there.”