At 3am on Sunday 30 October the Occupy Newcastle camp was attacked. People were punched, knocked over and kicked, one occupier was hit in the face, bricks were thrown. Nobody had to be hospitalised but it could have been worse.
On the previous day a group of around 100 from the Scottish Defence League, English Defence League and National Front turned up at the camp at the Monument in the city centre.
Originally they intended to counter-protest an anti-Islamophobia rally initiated by Counterfire. Since that was cancelled, they decided instead to target a Revolutionary Communist Group stall which was beside the occupation.
People from the occupation and the left, including Workers’ Liberty, helped defend the stall and occupation. A line of police separated the two sides.
The right-wing thugs were clearly up for a fight and had been drinking. Later on a few pubs were trashed and police escorted SDL members to coaches.
Although it is not clear who carried out the Sunday morning attack, it seems unlikely that Saturday’s events and Sunday’s were unrelated.
EDL members on Facebook have been engaging in discussions with occupiers, often not openly, but to say they should be welcome in the occupation movement.
The event has also raised an issue of trust in the police who had said they would be keeping the occupation safe after Sunday, but weren’t there when bars kicked out at 3am and the incident happened.
Unfortunately, it has also highlighted how divided the left and labour movement is. In an assembly meeting a Counterfire supporter blamed Unison for calling off the Islamophobia event; but Counterfire should have known that the EDL were coming and mobilised to defend the occupation.
The UAF/SWP were not visible on the day, but have since written to the occupation giving their support, asking for the occupation to send reps to the UAF committee, and blaming Counterfire for refusing to work with them.
It all points for the need for an open, democratic anti-racist/fascist group linked to the labour movement which reaches beyond being a front for left groups or something for union leaders to use at local elections.