Vicki Baars, NUS LGBT Officer, reports on the counter-demonstration against the English Defence League in Bradford on Saturday 28th August:
'The media whipped up quite a frenzy in the run up to the demo that the EDL had dubbed “the Big One”. With images of the Bradford riots in 2001 still etched into the memories of many it would certainly be fair to say that members of NUS LGBT campaign entered Bradford feeling slightly apprehensive and prepared for the possibility of the planned peaceful counter protest being rudely interrupted.
The EDL is a racist and islamophobic organisation with strong links to the BNP. They claim to be against extremism, yet their behaviour and the discourse they use shows them to be yet another fascist group. However, although there is no doubt about the fact that they are ignorant it needs to be made clear that they are certainly not stupid. The emergence of their “LGBT Division” is a tactic not previously deployed by a fascist group. By (wrongly) claiming that Islam preaches hate of LGBT people they have managed to prey upon the racism that already exists in the gay scene, and stoke up support from a section of the LGBT community. For this reason, it was especially important that NUS LGBT had a presence at the anti-EDL demo. It is vital that we show that the EDL does not speak for LGBT people.
And so the Campaign ventured in, with numbers slightly diminished due to Reclaim the Scene Manchester taking place at the same time. Members of the Campaign attended the “We are Bradford” event being held in the city, despite police attempts to divert people out of the city. Here locals and anti-fascists from up and down the country had come together to make a stand. The anti-fascist event passed without major incident and with speeches from Kanja Sesay, NUS Black Students' Officer, and myself - amongst others. There was music, a diverse range of speakers and some tasty biryani to keep everyone well fed. It was a great show of solidarity. Two minutes away EDL protesters attacked locals and anti-fascists who had chosen to confront them, threw bricks, smoke bombs and stones and, according to Hope Not Hate, began to fight with their own stewards.
Around half past three in the afternoon, when the counter demo began to wind down, there was a sudden flurry of police movement. Officers in riot gear began to block the entrances to the square. 250 EDL protesters had broken out and were trying to get into the anti-fascist demonstration to start a fight. The security proved too much for them and the EDL were packed back onto buses and given a police escort out of Bradford.’