A GROUP set up after a number of anti-fascist demonstators were arrested in Bolton, is to hold a meeting in the town on Friday.
Justice4Bolton was set up last month to call on police to drop the charges against more than 50 Unite Against Fascism supporters who were arrested at a protest against the English Defence League’s rally in Victoria Square.
The group, which will hold the public meeting at Quebec Hall, in Quebec Street, has accused the police of heavy-handed tactics and claims the use of conspiracy charges against protesters — as opposed to arresting them for specific incidents on the day — was “a move towards de-legitimatising protests against the rise of fascism in the UK”.
Among the speakers is Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi, Bolton TUC secretary Martin Challender and Dr Rhetta Moran, who sits on the national Justice4Bolton committee.
Mr Challender said: “As a Trades Council we oppose the principle of using conspiracy laws, something which goes back to unionists being targeted and blacklisted in the 1970s. It is important that we reserve the right to protest.”
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.
Previously police have denied they were heavyhanded on the day.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: “Everyone has a democratic right to protest. We respect that right and spent weeks consulting people locally and nationally and meticulously planning this event to ensure a demonstration could go ahead safely. Were it not for officers’ professionalism and bravery, many others could have been seriously injured.”
Friday’s public meeting starts at 7.30pm.