Newcastle Unites capitulates to the police

On 6 April, Newcastle Unites, a coalition between the SWP and Labour councillors, backed down ignominiously when police insisted it make room for a bunch of fascists at the city centre Monument. The police used Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to claim that Newcastle Unites was intent on ‘causing intimidation towards others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do.’ The use of the law to protect the right of 30-odd racists to spread their poison needed to be met with determined opposition. But Newcastle Labour councillors from Heaton, Byker and Elswick who were at the protest decided that their role was to ensure the 100 or more counter-protesters abided by the police instruction.

Councillor Veronica Dunn, who has gutted Byker of its services by voting for cuts for the last 10 years, declared ‘It’s important though that we stand together opposing what they [the fascists] have to say, we’ve got a much better voice, we know what Newcastle stands for, we want peace and unity in our city – a city that’s for everyone.’ A city that’s for everyone – except those who have lost jobs and services which Dunn has voted through. When asked what he had to say when the police pushed Newcastle Unites away, another Labour councillor, Dipu Ahad, squirmed and replied: ‘You’ve put me on the spot now. At the end of the day we don’t agree with this but we have to listen to the police, let’s not make an issue.’

FRFI supporters tried to attend the protest, but before we had even put down our bags next to other left-wing stalls at the Monument, local SWP leader and lawyer Yunus Bakhsh stormed over and forcefully pushed one of our comrades from behind, nearly knocking him over, shouting ‘Move out of the fucking way!’ The comrade unsurprisingly pushed back, and as the two faced off, several police officers rushed over, grabbed our comrade, took his details and issued him with a verbal caution which has no basis in law. Another FRFI supporter who intervened to defend the first comrade was also grabbed by a cop, had his feet stamped on, and, surrounded by more police, was issued with a dispersal notice under Section 35 of Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 banning him from the city centre until the end of the demonstration for ‘anti-social behaviour’.

Bakhsh slunk off while this was happening: it wouldn’t do for a barrister to take a stand against the police, especially one who seeks to curry favour with anti-working class Labour councillors, and protect their reputation when they meekly vote for savage spending cuts or accept police diktats.  Bakhsh is typical of the SWP leadership who regard securing and defending alliances with Labour and trade union opportunists as far more important than any political principle.


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