Five SDL arrests on day of protest

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BERWICK town centre was the scene of a stand-off between two opposing protest groups on Saturday afternoon.

The town’s Unite Against Fascism Group faced off with representatives of the Scottish Defence League, who were using the visit to continue their protest against Islam and immigration.

The Scottish defence league (SDL) march in Berwick which was met by a counter demontration held by Unite against fascism (UAF)1

The Scottish defence league (SDL) march in Berwick which was met by a counter demontration held by Unite against fascism (UAF)1

Traffic through the town was stopped to allow the demonstrations to take place, accompanied by extra police officers drafted into deal with the demonstrations, some mounted on police horses.

Berwick’s Unite Against Fascism group met outside the Town Hall, before marching up Castlegate. An anti-SDL banner was unfurled from the top of Scots Gate.

The group, which had attracted many members making a special return to the town for the protest, then held a static demonstration in the town centre.

Police estimates gave the number of Berwick UAF members at around 110, with several people coming and going during the afternoon.

The SDL protest, bolstered by many English Defence League supporters form the south of the county, was between 60 and 70 strong.

After being met at the train station, the SDL group was held by police at the top of Castlegate.

Early in the afternoon they were then escorted by police along their planned route, down Castlegate and along Walkergate.

Passing through Scots Gate, they chanted “Paedophiles” and “wifebeaters” at bemused locals who had gathered on the town walls. Along Walkergate they entwined Scottish and English flags, and sang ‘Rule Britannia’.

Once on the Parade, the SDL draped their flags over the wall of the Parish Church and gave a short series of speeches.

They were then escorted back along their route, and onto departing trains.

Berwick Unite Against Fascism, part of the Berwick and Borders Anti-Fascist alliance, received strong support from councillors and politicians in southern Scotland, as well as a statement of support from the new Northumbrian Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird.

But there has been discontent at the fact SDL being allowed to march at all, as well as the cost of policing the event.

In a letter to the ‘Advertiser’, resident Michael Stewart complained: “Who is footing the bill for the massive police presence in the town to control this unruly mob? I have a feeling it will be the taxpayer, so that helps to explain why the police precept element of the council tax is rising this year!”