I spoke only a few words before we had to postpone all speeches because of the appearance of the EDL (small in numbers) - which roused the rally into chanting. On my way to the rally a police officer seemed to deny knowledge of our existence but for the hour that I was there I witnessed totally unnecessary and aggressive tactics by the strong police presence.
I estimate there were two to three hundred of us and about two-thirds of us occupied the street itself. This later become the scene of a kind of reverse kettling manoeuvre by the police (designed to keep people from joining but not from leaving). I moved on to the pavement at an early stage but from there witnessed some extremely aggressive behaviour by the police.
In one case, a young peacenik was overwhelmed by around six officers and many photographers attempted to record the struggle, which was not much of a struggle - think how an animal might look after being held to the ground for up to one minute, potentially suffocated in the process (I shall have to review my own footage).
There was no communication by the police about what they wanted (or if there had been some initial tannoy it was neither repeated nor updated). I learned from an organiser that the police had asked us to move to the park, but when I went to the gate I was told it was closed (and now apparently being used as a holding area). People being forcibly moved from the street, for a period of some 20 minutes, could not have known whether they faced arrest or why.
I am disgusted and saddened that the police have not facilitated a peaceful demonstration but instead sought to provoke upstanding citizens determined to fight racism in all its forms.
Picture of Green Party banner at the front of the rally in Westminster. UAF.
Shahrar Ali, Green Party