POLICE had to step in to keep the peace as protesters clashed outside a meeting calling for charges against anti-fascist demonstrators to be dropped.
Justice4Bolton was set up last month after more than 50 Unite Against Fascism supporters were arrested at a protest against the English Defence League’s rally in Victoria Square in March.
Last night, police turned away a group wearing EDL T-shirts who tried to get into the Justice4Bolton meeting at Quebec Hall, in Quebec Street.
Once the protesters left and the meeting started, Bernie Gallagher, secretary of the Unison Bolton Metro branch and who attended the protest in March, said: “We took the decision without hesitation that we would support the demonstration.
“There was a culture of fear which was just unbelievable.
“My family members were pleading with me not to go because it was going to be dangerous but you would have had to chain me to a bed post to stop me.
“I did not realise it was going to be as bad as it was.
“This is my town where I have grown up and here I was seeing riot police coming down the Town Hall steps to arrest leaders.
“I just stood there. It was frightening and intimidating. I have never seen anything like it.”
Human rights lawyer Robert Lizar said: “We have the right to demonstrate and defend our communities and we should not be intimidated.”
Justice4Bolton has the support of trade unions, anti-fascist organisations and influential MPs including former Northern Ireland and Wales Secretary Peter Hain.
Thousands of UAF and EDL demonstrators held counter-demonstrations in Victoria Square on March 20.
Police made more than 70 arrests, with more than 50 of those UAF supporters. Among those arrested on the day were Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, and Dr Moran, who is also joint secretary of Greater Manchester UAF.
Police have denied they were heavy-handed on the day.