Counter protests fail to stop far-right march

Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally in Wigan town centre
Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally in Wigan town centre

A FAR-right rally has been held in Wigan town centre.

Demonstrators from neo-Nazi group the National Front and the North West Infidels were met by counter protesters from organisations Hope Not Hate and the Liverpool Anti-Fascists as they gathered on Wallgate outside the Last Orders pub.

Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally

Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally

Missiles, including glass bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at the anti-fascist counter protesters who positioned themselves outside Totally Wicked on the opposite side of the road.

Hundreds of police including tactical aid units and police dogs were in attendance to keep the two groups apart.

The NF protesters, who were demonstrating against immigration, chanted ‘refugees not welcome here’ which was met by shouts of ‘Nazi scum off our streets’ from the anti-fascists.

The protesters were kept on Wallgate for about an hour before the march was allowed to begin.

Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally

Police at the scene as far-right groups stage an anti-immigration rally

Police surrounded the NF protesters and led them down Library Street along Hewlett Street before they came down Millgate and Standishgate along Mesnes Street, New Market Street and Market Street and back to Wallgate.

Several scuffles broke out between the police and the counter protesters who continued to try and halt the march.

The NF protesters reassembled outside the Last Orders pub while some of their members gave speeches outlining why they were demonstrating before police began to lead small groups of them at a time towards the train stations.

A statement on GMP Wigan West’s Facebook page reads: “We are happy to report that everything is back to normal in the town centre following a National Front protest and a counter protest.

“The protests passed off with minimal disorder and any incidents were dealt with swiftly by officers at the scene. One man was arrested on suspicion of a racial aggravated public order offence.”

GMP said the policing operation was prepared together with partners from Wigan Council and that during the day a number of incidents of disorder took place which were all handled swiftly.

All of the protesters are now believed to have left the town centre though patrols will remain in the area for the time being.

Superintendent Craig Thompson of GMP Specialist Operations said: “As we have said many times before, we respect everyone’s right to lawfully protest and we understand that demonstrations like these can be extremely emotional given the polarising views of the opposing sides.

“We have worked very closely with Wigan Local Authority to ensure that this protest passed as peacefully and safely as possible and thankfully today this has passed largely without serious incident. Any disorder was dealt with swiftly by officers policing the event.

“We have taken positive action against those who tried to abuse the right of free speech but the majority of people went about the protest in a lawful manner and they are now able to go home and spend the night with their families instead of in a police cell.”