UP TO 1,000 far-right protesters gathered to vent their hate in Manchester city centre on Sunday night, anti-fascist activists reported yesterday.
Anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate said it was the largest Islamophobic street protest seen for years, “creating scenes not seen in a British city centre since the heyday of the EDL.”
Former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson organised the misnamed UK Against Hate event, which was met with a counterdemonstration by hundreds of people from campaign group Stand Up to Racism, backed by Unite Against Fascism, trade unionists, LGBT groups, local councillors and the local community.
Stand Up to Racism joint secretary Weyman Bennett told the Star that Mr Robinson had brought together far-right groups that have been split since 2011.
He described those involved as “hardcore nazis” who were “seeking revenge,” having been defeated in recent marches in Liverpool and Manchester.
Unite Against Fascism north-west regional organiser Paul Jenkins said that, at one point, some of the fascist demonstrators held up a pig’s head, as well as throwing bottles and making nazi salutes.
There were reports that abuse had been directed at volunteers from the Sikh community who were handing out food to homeless people.
Pritpal Singh, one of the volunteers, said: “It became really scary for us.
“Our usual homeless crowd came to us saying they were starving, so the volunteers decided to move to Stevenson Square.
“They continued tirelessly serving food, despite [the risk to] their own safety.”
Greater Manchester Police said more than 400 officers had been deployed, including some drafted in from other forces. Eight people were arrested for public order offences.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham took to Twitter on Sunday night to condemn those who caused police to be “unnecessarily distracted,” saying that they had been stretched to the limit as they continue investigating the recent terror attack in the city.
Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said many officers who had already worked long hours had been forced to operate in “extremely challenging circumstances.”
And Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins revealed his force was under “real strain” after losing nearly one in four officers as a result of Tory cuts.