On April the 22nd, the Media Circus came to Bristol’s Arnolfini for the second ‘Leaders Debate’ – in so far as you can call it a debate – under a thin veil of secrecy, to discuss personalities and policies that could never serve working class interests. Streets were closed, barriers erected, and hundreds of police shipped in – some on horses, some with dogs or riot shields and some with machine guns – so that three would be leaders could discuss very carefully selected issues posed by members of a carefully selected audience.
Bristol residents – including members of Bristol Anarchist Federation, Class War, the IWW, Stop the War Coalition, Fathers for justice and various community groups – decided to make a noisy and energetic stand against this democratic facadé and to show that the working class isn’t willing to be ignored. Even Bristol’s very own munter crew had managed to get themselves upright and vaguely coherent long enough to come along.
The Anarchist contingent numbering around 40-50 gathered in a park near the Arnolfini for the evenings debate and the FIT Team were quick to turn up and get some video footage in the hope one of the munters would fall over and they could get £250 off You’ve been Framed.
The anarchist contingent were slow to get themeselves together and move off, with so many different groups collecting together it seemed that everyone was waiting for someone else to make the first move. Soon a group of about seven EDL members – who who claimed to be protesting the debate too – arrived in the park to practice a couple of numbers for their Britain’s got Boneheads audition.
Most did not want to waste their energy on confrontation at this stage so chose to ignore them. Some attempted chants of “An-ti-fa” and “Fascist Scum” but sadly these people seemed to be all mouth and no trousers.
The cops escorted the EDL away, strangely, to a bar next door to the debate venue itself and the assembled crowd of anarchists and the like split into smaller groups and headed out the park. As the cops blocked off routes towards the Arnolfini some protesters were left aimlessly plodding around the park waving their placards at picnicking students and passing cyclists.
The police, as usual, had decided the protest was to be held on their terms, away from the sight of the politicians. We passed a feeble attempt from mounted police to make us turn back to the designated protest area and a crowd of around 200 protesters gathered on the narrow strip of land between the water and the river grille next to the Arnolfini housing about 10 EDL members. One line of cops preventing access to the Arnolfini and another standing between us and the EDL who’s chants were shouted down.
For about 40 minutes the anarchist contingent resisted the cops attempts to push us back using horses, dogs and riot cops and the EDL were finally escorted away. Knowing they would not be successful in reaching the Arnolfini itself some protesters managed to outmaneuver both cops and journalists who had managed to inadvertently kettle themselves between their own security fencing and the socialists, and clashed with the EDL in the city centre. The Police arrived and arrests were made, and unlike some blogs have reported it was mainly the EDL that got knicked (and kicked).
After some individuals took part in pimping out David Cameron’s Tour bus with some handy political stickers they found many protesters positioned themeselves directly opposite the debate venue and in full view of the arriving politicians.
As the leaders arrived they were greeted with jeers and heckles and a selection of banners, all united in the message that politicians don’t represent the working class. And whilst Police lines had attempted to prevent our future leaders seeing the angry face of a class who’ll not take Public Sector cuts quietly the residents of Bristol let them know in no uncertain terms.
Not only did Bristol let the leaders know they’re surplus to requirements, residents also let the EDL – who time after time reveal themselves as racists, looking for little more than a scrap, and offering nothing to the working class – know that they were unwelcome too.