I, like the vast majority of people in Birmingham love the fact that our city is so diverse and vibrant. I felt that this was worth defending, especially from a bunch of trouble makers many of whom were from outside the city.
Unfortunately it turned out the UAF were no more interested in our community than the racists many of us turned out to oppose!
The young Muslims who rampaged through the city streets were incited to violence by UAF activists. I was near the front of the rally in Rotunda Square and I saw how they worked and I saw how it got out of hand.
The UAF should have switched rhetoric when they saw that the young Muslims were getting restless and angry. Instead what they did was get increasingly aggressive speakers to talk about ‘smashing the BNP’ (who not directly involved with the protest) whilst sending agitators into the crowd, with megaphones, to whip up anger there.
The writer of this letter to the Birmingham Post is a young Liberal Democrat.
Nevertheless it was clear that despite a majority of peaceful protesters there was a group of trouble makers intent on causing a fight. The UAF completely ignored this state of affairs and led a series of inflammatory chants and speeches calling for blood shed. When the expected march did not materialise the crowd of youths became restless. UAF agitators in the crowd stirred up trouble using megaphones and some bottles and pieces of wood were thrown at the crowd watching the protest. A great way to get people onside. Eventually the dam broke and the protest crowd surged forwards. I followed as they ran down the street, 'looking for the BNP' scattering both the Police and innocent shoppers, throwing glass bottles and damaging street furniture.
As the Police pushed back I returned to the place where the protest had started. The UAF had vanished, their work as agents provocators done, a riot was now in full swing.
The UAF's actions were insensitive and I believe that they have set the cause of race relations and anti-far right extremism in Birmingham back by years. The sight of young Asian men beating people up and running through the streets seemingly proves everything the BNP says. I have come away with the impression that the UAF is a cowardly organisation that seeks only to provoke violence and causes more harm than good.
Now to be fair, if I understand it correctly, the bottles and bits of wood were thrown - initially, anyway - at the four or five 'come on then' youths the other side of the police cordon - which our writer may not have been able to see. But I take the general point. 'Smash the BNP' to an audience like that translates as 'beat them up' - as approved by Billy Bragg.
And if you can't find any 'BNP', try any young white male. Or middle aged one. Or a bunch of girls and boys out for a drink*. At some point on this continuum - and not very far along it - protest turns into robbery with racist violence.
I wonder if the Guardian will print the letter above ? I wouldn't hold your breath.
(*I have received reports that young people arriving in Brum later that evening for a Saturday night out were beaten and robbed of wallets, mobiles etc by a large gang of doubtless sincere anti-fascists).