The EDL organised this demonstration properly, by the book, with police liasion. They asked for,and were granted, a muster at Walthamstow Central Station on either the grass outside the shopping mall or the paved area known as the Town Square. From there a march into Hoe Street, north towards Bell Corner, then right into the eastern stretch of Forest Road for a rally at a suitable spot outside the Town Hall. The Goose pub at Walthamstow Central was a suitable refreshment point. My information is that the police said that there had been no liasion regarding any counter demonstration that route was acceptable.
Then the UAF announced that they would be holding a counter demonstration in the Town Square (by the bank) and a list of speakers times etc were announced. The EDL were told that they were now to muster at Blackhorse Road station (one stop before Walthamstow Central on the Victoria Line) and could march the length of Forest Road to the Town Hall. The same route as in 2012.
This was a much longer route, with more scope for UAF obstruction. It has another disadvantage; it is a mostly residential street. Other than a few small shops, the fire station, a Hindu temple and the William Morris Gallery it is a street of houses and flats. As you will see in the pictures below peoples homes were affected by the UAF/antifa obstruction and this is always twisted to be the fault of the EDL. Had the route along Hoe Street been kept the march would have moved more quickly past some Municipal Buildings, the offices of solictors, estate agents and accountants, and some national chain stores. Institutions of greater influence would have had the opportunity to see the message of the banners.
I arrived at Walthamstow Central to find the lawn and square devoid of anybody but shoppers and some Christian Evangelists. But there was a UAF stall (anti Tory literature produced overnight - they are busy bees) and a young woman directing people. She explained that they had not been allowed a march but were permitted a static rally, and had permission to direct potential attendees to the quickest route. I decided to go straight up to Forest Road to see what was happening there.
Above an Antifascist poster; below some of the Antifascists themselves.
I don't know why this particular group were being contained. The London Evening Standard describes it thus, but doesn't have a reason.
But the mood among the anti-fascists, jubilant at first, turned sour when a group of about 40 protesters and legal observers became separated from the main group and were surrounded and kettled by police.
You can see what I mean about the residential homes, and the fact that UAF/Antifa behaviour is all the fault of the EDL. Some police officers had stocks of Order 14 (of the Public Order Act) notices,and I noticed some antifascists had been served with them. I also heard a 'legal observer' being told that the order applied to him as well. We never see legal observers protecting the EDL's right to protest.
The EDL were mustering outside the station. New groups were arriving as I watched.
I moved back into Forest Road to see the march come past.
The police were moving the UAF/antifa ahead of the march. Every so often they had to stop.
By slipping down the side streets running parallel to Forest Road I was able to get ahead of the march and the obstructors several times.
This young woman was balanced on a dustbin and trying to take a selfie while hiding her face.
The chant at this point was Alerta Antifascista, Alerta Antifascista. In the 18 months since the last Walthamstow demo there has been a great change in the UAF/Antifa/Black bloc opposition. In 2012 there were a great many Trades Union banners - many of them the ceremonial carefully embroidered formal banners, carried with some pride. And while I might disagree with them politically on this issue I retain much common ground with teachers and railway workers. Today there was one Union banner, a mass produced flag of the Unite Union, who fund the UAF heavily. Everything else was the black flag of anarchy or the red flag. There were also less opposers in number, and fewer of them were obvious genuine local residents.
These antifasists were a very international crowd. I heard a great deal of conversation around me in Hispanic languages - I cannot tell spoken Spanish or Portuguese apart, much less distinguish the speech of Europe from the speech of Latin America. There were also quite a few east Asian faces, Chinese? Korean? I don't know. And English spoken in Scandinavian accents.
In the time it took me to switch to video setting the chant had changed from 'If it wasn't for the police you would be dead' which was also very popular aimed at the Pegida rally last month, to 'We are Walthamstow - racists have to go'
These boys appeared from Greenleaf Road. They saw the police on the other side of the road and dropped the cricket bat with some speed.
I decided that the lawn outside the William Morris gallery would give me a good and safe view again.
The march stopped at Bell Corner, a flashpoint of the 2012 demo, while the police cleared the way.
This is what was waiting for them
The EDL rally was on the corner of the complex that is Waltham Forest Town Hall, Magistrates Court and Assembly Rooms. I could hear the PA start up but couldn't get near. The UAF/antifa were being held back but I decided not to push my way through to the front. I decided to go down the back streets again and get to the UAF rally which was right outside the Town Hall. A few others decided the same route might bring them nearer to the EDL.
But they were wrong. "Where are those f*cking nazis????!!!!"
A footpath through two blocks of flats brought me to the back of the UAF rally.
This is a comedian called Ava Vidal. She claimed that a man disguised in a Boris Johnson mask had assaulted her recently, while telling her that he was going to vote UKIP to get 'the likes of me' sent home. She said that UKIP has empowered 'these people' and make no mistake the EDL may say they stand against Islam but really they are racist. She used to live in Walthamstow and had lovely Muslim neighbours.
I wonder why she moved? Note the uniformity of the placards. Compare them to those of the EDL - individual, informative and impassioned.
Anyway she wasn't very funny and I didn't fancy any more or seeing who the other speakers were so I Ieft.
I am told that the march returned to Blackhorse Road in good order and dispersed.