Anti-fascists described “grotesque” scenes in London this weekend as police threatened hundreds with time behind bars for opposing far-right demonstrations.
More than 250 protesters were arrested near Tower Bridge on Saturday as they sought to blockade the far-right English Defence League’s (EDL) march through east London.
Around 1,500 people avoided the racists with a rally at the nearby Altab Ali Park.
About a dozen EDL supporters, including its leader Tommy Robinson, were arrested for public order offences.
But police hauled away anti-fascists on chartered buses after more than 600 marched from the park in a bid to block off the EDL route.
Those arrested were charged with diverting from an authorised march route and held in cells for up to 15 hours.
Several bail papers seen by the Morning Star order them “not to engage in demonstration within the boundaries of the M25 where the English Defence League, English Volunteer Force or British National Party are present.” Breaching the condition would be cause for arrest and imprisonment awaiting trial.
The reason for the ban simply reads: “interferes with/obstructs justice.”
Protester Aaron Peters called the crackdown an “absolutely grotesque misuse of public funds. It’s almost like they have quotas to arrest anti-fascists.”
Meanwhile civil rights groups condemned the kettling and arrest of five legal observers, led by the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.
Co-ordinator Tony Martin said it was “very rare” even for individual observers to be caught up in arrests and “will send shockwaves through supporters of freedom of justice.”