A senior West Midlands officer has told a jury how he was forced to give orders for helmets, shields and batons to be deployed to officers who tried to protect the public while patrolling an EDL demonstration in Birmingham.
Giving evidence at the trial of four EDL supporters accused of violent disorder, Inspector Andrew Bridgewater said that police cordons came under a “sustained attack” from supporters of the far right group during their rally on July 20 last year.
Insp Bridgewater told Birmingham Crown Court that officers had initially attended the demonstration wearing Code Two clothing – normal patrol wear. But orders for more protection were given as many of the 2,000 demonstrators turned on officers and threw missiles at the Library of Birmingham, which was still being built at the time.
“They seemed to focus both on the cordon of police and the hoarding surrounding the library,” he said. “A number of officers there were assaulted. Officers were kicked at, missiles were thrown, beer cans, bottles, bricks. It was at that point I issued orders to get changed into Code One equipment because I have a duty of care to my officers. Those officers were coming under a sustained attack from missiles.”
The line under attack stretched across Broad Street near the former municipal bank. It was intended to stop the EDL and counter protesters Unite Against Fascism from clashing. Insp Bridgewater continued: “Officers were given clear instruction to keep a sterile area, they would have been using verbal commands and force to keep that area clear, preserve the Queen’s peace and keep the groups apart to prevent a large public disorder.”
As officers came under further attack, he said the order was given for batons, and said: “A show of force can be effective in certain circumstances. I’ve seen it work well when 25 people get their batons out.” But asked by prosecutor David Bennett if the action had any effect on the disorder, Insp Bridgewater said: “Absolutely none.” He added police dogs were also deployed within the library building site when hoardings were pulled down.
Thomas Wilkie, 22, of Kent Road, Wednesbury, Paul McKenzie, 48, of Braemar Road, Billingham, Cleveland, Andrew Edge, 44, of Wellington Road, South Stockport, and Shane Williams, 26, of Dragon Lane, Leicester, have all denied a charge of violent disorder.