Jun 25 2010 by David Wynn, Kilmarnock Standard
Rival demos bring Killie to a standstill
KILMARNOCK town centre was brought to a standstill on Saturday as rival demonstrators took to the streets.
Around 40 members of the Scottish Defence League held what was billed as a free speech demo at the Cross.
Just yards away 60 Anti-Fascist Alliance activists took part in a counter-demo against the SDL, who they claim are racists.
But both groups were outnumbered by a huge police presence of around 150 officers.
Killie residents couldn’t believe their eyes as dozens of police vehicles rolled into town on Saturday morning in preparation for the demos.
A police helicopter also circled overhead as the demos commenced in glorious sunshine at 11am.
Verbal insults were traded between the rival groups but any fears of clashes were allayed by a large police cordon round either side.
The SDL did little to get their ‘free speech’ message across and mainly screamed football chants and songs such as Rule Brittania.
The AFA, partly because of their loudspeaker, were able to voice their views and objections more coherently.
The only flashpoints came after the demos when the SDL were being escorted to the edge of town and a handful of ant-fascist activists attempted to confront them.
A cat-and-mouse chase then proceeded as police tried to keep track of the anti-fascists’ movements.
Some streets and roads – including John Finnie Street and Portland Road – were temporarily blocked off to shoppers and vehicles as the police escorted the SDL to their meeting point at the Portmann Hotel.
No arrests were made and Chief Superintendent Bill Fitzpatrick hailed the police operation a success.
Several members of the public, however, were unhappy at being filmed by police officers with cameras, whose main focus was meant to be the demonstrators.
Some members of the press also said that officers were overzealous in their demands for identification, particularly from photographers covering an event in a public place.
After the demos a ‘Kilmarnock and Loudoun United’ march organised by Kilmarnock and Loudoun Trades Council attracted 140 people who walked from Howard Park to the town centre and back again.
At Howard Park the marchers heard speeches from local politicians who denounced the SDL.
Cathy Jamieson MP said: “There is no place for racism or fascism in any of our communities. We could not stand by and say nothing while the Scottish Defence League tried to create unrest in our town, when there is none.”