“Today we learnt that South Yorkshire Police had decided in the weeks prior to the march that this would be a much larger march and the threat level was raised from medium to high risk, meaning the likelihood of violence to local people was considered to be high by the Force.
Chief Inspector Richard Butterworth of South Yorkshire Police revealed that the command unit had no CCTV images and wholly relied on radio contact from Police units at the scene. The Policing strategy for the day focused its attention on escorting the Far right to the march and back to the train station, it had not focused its attention in making sure local people got home safely, nor did it focus its attention on the factions of far right groups who did not want to attend the agreed march, nor did it focus any policing resources to pubs such as the William Fry which had a reputation with far right supporters. Defence barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, told the court that police records show that a senior officer had a conversation with members of Yorkshires Finest at 1.15pm and reported that they were refusing to stick to the agreed march plans. Police photographers took their photographs at 1.30 and at 2.30pm another Police officers had reported to the Command centre that he had seen three people from Yorkshires Finest at the William Fry pub on Wellbeck. CI Butterworth couldn’t recall why these reports were not followed through at the time. He later agreed that with hindsight had these report been followed through, and legal sanctions used at the time, the incidents with the defendants might not have taken place.”
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve always found that, on the day of opposing far-right and anti-fascist rallies, if you refuse to stick to the agreed march plans and the police spot you, they tell you that they’re imposing conditions on you under sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 and give you the choice of moving on to the authorised protest area or getting arrested. Famously, a few short years ago, the cops arrested 286 antifascists in one go for this precise reason. What does not normally happen is that the cops see you, report your presence to the command centre, and then do absolutely nothing further.
Of course it’s not really possible to be disappointed in the cops, but it is impressive to see how South Yorkshire Police – who both failed to do anything about the mass child abuse scandal, and then failed to take any real action to protect local Muslims from the rise in racist attacks in the aftermath – consistently continue to live down to the low standards they’ve set themselves.