Queen Square was on lock-down today as the English Defence League marched through Bristol and a counter-march protested against their presence. However, due to the biggest police operation ever seen in Bristol, with extra officers bused in from as far afield as Lancashire at a cost of £500,000, the two opposing groups had no chance of meeting.
“I’ve got a feeling that today was the wrong day to come into Bristol,” I overheard somebody said as they walked with a friend down Baldwin Street.
That may have been true in some parts of the city centre – and I felt desperately sorry for a late wedding guest stuck in their car on Victoria Street as Bristol Bridge remained closed to traffic – but in other parts, Bristol on a weekend continued unabated, with events including the Pride and Foodies festivals, and urban sport outside the M Shed.
12.41: I cycle around Queen Square, over Prince Street Bridge, past the Ostrich, then tried to take a photograph of the EDL members below from Redcliffe Parade East car park, but was politely asked to leave the car park by a policeman on horseback.
12.43: EDL Suffolk League members drinking in the Colosseum pub.
12.45: EDL latecomers from Leeds division were escorted inside the police cordon to Redcliffe Wharf. Police dogs yapping. “EDL, go and sit on the naughty step”, says one banner held up by a protester in a polka dot cagoule.
13.03: Helicopter still buzzing overhead, EDL chanting like football crowd, police dogs still yapping. Impossible to get near the route of the EDL march.
13.15: Scuffles break out. One policeman has his helmet knocked off. Batons are drawn. Protesters are pushed back.
13.20: The badge numbers of police officers are shouted out in the scuffles as tourist boats sail serenely under the bridge. Protesters continue to be pushed back, and they concertedly push back themselves. One man is arrested, swiftly led away and bundled into van.
13.30: The splinter group by Redcliffe Bridge disperses.
13: 35: The main protest groups remain kettled by the police on Bristol Bridge. Their shouts and boos get louder as they see the EDL march cross Redcliffe Bridge, St George’s flags waving.
13.49: The EDL march reaches the corner of Welsh Back nearest Bristol Bridge. There is not much the crowd can do except boo and continue chanting.
13.52: May Gurney workers in orange jackets are ready to commence the clean-up. Mostly of horse poo.
14.04: There is a small crowd in Thunderbolt Square by Graze, with the EDL gathering taking place well out of view. Graze is shut but Caffe Gusto down the road remains open. How many thousands of pounds must businesses on King Street, Welsh Back and The Grove have lost today?
15:41: Police report that they have made seven arrests during the day: three for failing to remove face coverings, one on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, one after being found on enclosed premises, one for unlawful assembly and one in relation to the planned protests.