As the temperatures plunged below zero outside, the North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (NorSCARF) met on summer chairs and garden furniture in a ad hoc location last night. The reason? To put our anti-fascist preparations into operation for the planned "protest" by the English Defence League on January 23rd (more details about why they've chosen Stoke in this previous post).
Most crucially after a meeting with the police the venue of the EDL mobilisation and the counter-protest have changed. They have decided not to ban the EDL protest (though apparently there are efforts under way by some councillors to do so), but will be heavily policing it. The EDL will be arriving by coach somewhere at the boundaries of Stoke-on-Trent and will then be escorted to the meeting place in the city centre. Funnily enough, their rendezvous point is yet again J.D. Wetherspoons (I wonder if they've ever considered a sponsorship deal?) EDL thugs arriving by train will also be met by the police and then escorted on. The EDL rally will then take place at 3pm opposite Argos in Hanley and go on for one hour, apparently with speeches.
The anti-fascist mobilisation has changed venue too. Previously I reported it would be taking place at Staffs Uni Student's Union, which is just a stone's throw from the train station. Instead the police have recommended we mobilise outside Hanley town hall - which is about 200 yards from where the EDL will be. From a policing point of view it makes sense - the streets in that part of town make a natural 'no man's land' that a concentrated presence would be able to enforce.
The NorSCARF protest may or may not include a march (to be decided) and will be a mix of a vigil and a rally. The emphasis will be very much on non-violence - so those thinking of travelling to Stoke for a ruck with either the EDL or the old bill are not welcome. NorSCARF are also looking to mobilise as many anti-fascists as possible from around the country - so all trade union, faith groups, socialists etc. will be warmly received. NorSCARF also has a number of stunts planned, about which I'm sworn to secrecy.
That's the latest for now. A press statement will be released shortly with the finer points of detail on it. Obviously, I'll keep readers posted.
Photo at Proper Tidy