About 1,000 youth set up barricades in the streets and defended themselves from an attack by cops in the Manningham area of Bradford after supporters of the National Front, a fascist organization, had begun chanting racist abuse at Asians participating in an Anti-Nazi League rally.
During the night the police summoned 425 additional cops from neighboring units to reinforce the 500 local cops on the scene, who were having a difficult time cracking down on the protesters. A BBC news bulletin reported that cops "regularly charged the crowd with shields and batons but were forced to retreat repeatedly as the crowd surged forward." Some 120 cops were reportedly injured during the street battle.
Two weeks before the events in Bradford, young people in Burnley fought back against racist assaults by right-wing forces. This followed an assault on an Asian taxi driver by a thug who struck him with a hammer, fracturing his cheekbone. In the week since then, taxi drivers in Burnley have organized a strike to protest the destruction of their vehicles by rightists. The strike action has spread to nearby Nelson and Rawtenstall.
"It's about police brutality," explained R. Mohammed, a resident of the Stoneyholme area of Burnley, describing how cops set up local Asians in the Burnleywood area for assault by rightist thugs. Speaking to Militant reporters just days after the assaults, he described how the cops had escorted a group of 100 racists from the predominantly Asian area of Stoneyholme to the largely white area of Burnleywood. The cops had then drawn away to allow the racists to launch attacks on the few Asian properties that were nearby.
The home and shop that belonged to Mohammed and Rashda Sarfraz was one of those that were set on fire. "I spent half an hour calling the police while my house was besieged by a crowd of 60 people, who eventually burnt it down," Mohammed Sarfraz explained. "My wife, my children, and myself were only able to escape when eight of our friends, who happen to be white, came to help."
Rashda Sarfraz broke her leg as she tried to leave the home. "The local newspaper, the Burnley Express, printed a photo of my burnt-out house, but reporters would not come to interview my family so that we could tell our story," Sarfraz commented. "But we have received messages of support from staff and children at my daughters school, which is attended by pupils who are mostly white. Customers at my shop have also sent flowers and messages of support. I would like to see those responsible for this attack punished."
The cops have not only set up Asians for assaults by the rightists, but they have tried to punish those who act to prevent racist attacks. "The police have arrested Asians who had prevented two men from entering a local mosque because they believed the men were likely to carry out attacks on those coming into the mosque," reported Masaka Ali, a Stoneyholme resident.
These arrests and other steps by the cops have not deterred young people in the area from mobilizing to defend their communities. According to other Stoneyholme residents who did not wish to be named, youth organized street patrols to protect the predominantly Asian area from further attacks during several nights in the week following the weekend assaults.
Blair violence-baits protesters
In response to the events in Bradford, Prime Minister Anthony Blair tarred those who stood up to the police as "thugs." He indicated that the government was considering giving the cops powers to use water cannon in future conflicts. Bradford member of Parliament Marsha Singh argued for such measures, declaring that "the police have got to have the equipment and the resources to clear the streets."
Reflecting growing divisions within the Labour Party administration, former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley said the suggested use of water cannon would be "absolutely disastrous."
The previous week, Home Secretary David Blunkett had attempted to ban all demonstrations. Using the 1986 Public Order Act, he granted the West Yorkshire Police powers to prevent public events that were scheduled to held by a range of organizations, from the fascist National Front to the Anti- Nazi League and the Trades Union Congress. Police have arrested 36 people in Bradford, two-thirds of whom are Asian.
Paul Davies is a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union in London.
Immigrants gain ground in securing their rights
Changing face of working class
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