Saturday, 15 August 2009

Protesters arrested at BNP rally

From the Telegraph:

A total of 19 people have been arrested after around 1,500 anti-fascist demonstrators joined a protest march near the site of a BNP festival.

Derbyshire Police said officers were pleased that the vast majority of those involved in the march in and near the village of Codnor had been peaceful and co-operative.

Police did come under brief attack from a small number of protesters who threw missiles, including plastic bottles and bags of flour, as demonstrators attempted to force their way through a police cordon and past mounted officers.

At least four men were led away in handcuffs in Codnor Denby Lane after the scuffles, which lasted for around five minutes.

A police spokesman said: "Unfortunately, some people have ignored police advice and failed to abide by the agreements reached during the planning of the protest.

"These people blocked or tried to block roads near the site of the Red, White and Blue festival.

"Officers had to take action to open the roads and deal with the protesters."

The spokesman conceded that there had been disruption to local people and road users, who he thanked for their patience and understanding.

There were no reports of injuries, but officers did assist several protesters who needed medical attention, including one who had suffered an asthma attack.

Derbyshire's Acting Assistant Chief Constable, Steve Cotterill, said: "We are pleased that so far the protest has been mainly peaceful.

"We have made fewer arrests than we did last year and these arrests were for sporadic behaviour.

"Only when necessary was force used to keep order and maintain the rights of all who were present on the day. At no stage was it necessary to deploy officers in full riot gear."

The police operation involved more than 500 officers on the ground.

"My main concerns throughout this operation have been for the local community who have been adversely affected by the festival and the protest," Mr Cotterill added.

"I'm very grateful for their co-operation and understanding."

Officers had earlier made a small number of arrests near Codnor after protesters acted unlawfully near the site of the BNP's annual Red, White and Blue Festival.

The main body of demonstrators, which was monitored by a camera mounted on a drone, gathered in Codnor's Market Place, chanting "Nazi scum, off our streets" and waving placards from campaign group Unite Against Fascism and various trade union groups.

Dozens of tents had been pitched on the BNP festival site, around 200 yards from where police were forced to hold back protesters.

Journalists from some media organisations were invited on to the site, where a political marquee had been set up to hear speeches and a Ford Ka was up for grabs in a raffle alongside stalls selling badges and pork scratchings.

A coconut shy - featuring images of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown and offering festival-goers the chance to "knock a traitor off the stick" - had also been set up at the festival site.

Simon Darby, the deputy leader of the far-right party, estimated that about 100 of those visiting the festival had been delayed by the protest march.

Accusing the protesters of causing trouble deliberately so that the BNP would be blamed, Mr Darby added: "Local people wouldn't even know we were here if they didn't protest.

"We are just ordinary people having a bit of a laugh in the sun."

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