Waving her pink sparkly giant claw, a lone woman approached a group of some 40 people congregated around the back of Temple Meads soon after midday on Sunday afternoon.
“You’re not doing this in my name,” she shouted at the group calling themselves Gays Against Sharia, before being bundled away by a police officer.
It was the closest any anti-fascist managed to get to the group whose march from Temple Meads to a Queen Square ringed with a steel barrier saw Bristol’s finest out in force:
“What’s going on?” a visitor to the city had asked a barista at Starbucks as dozens of police, riot helmets swinging from their belts, gathered near the Gays Against Sharia group, whose march had been jointly organised by another group, British & Immigrants United Against Terrorism.
“Bristol just really loves protesting,” someone in the queue replied.
The demonstration and a counter-protest saw a huge police presence, with some 250 officers, plus mounted police and dog handlers involved in the operation.
Chief inspector Andy Williams said: “Overall, the operation went well with the vast majority of those involved behaving and following our request for peaceful demonstrations.
“Unfortunately there were a small number of counter protesters who deviated from their pre-agreed route and who became disruptive.
“This led to a small amount of anti-social behaviour in the Old Market area which caused some congestion on surrounding roads while officers dealt with the situation.”
He thanked members of the public affected for their patience.
It was a weekend of protests, with Saturday seeing an anti-austerity rally on College Green followed by a march through the city which was attended by thousands of protesters.
Anti-austerity, anti-cuts, ant-Tory; this march had it all.
Someone didn’t get the memo that this demonstration has been called by our mayor, but for some people it was also anti-Marvin.
From a stage in front of City Hall, speakers roused the crowds before the march began.
They included Marti Burgess representing Bristol’s business community, who said that “Bristol cannot become a world class city if it’s starved of investment”.
There were also impassioned speeches from the Green Party’s Cleo Lake and Labour’s Hibaq Jama.
“We are here to say, stop punishing the poor!” Lake shouted into the microphone as the rain started to fall.
The march then snaked its way around the city centre before returning to College Green for more speeches from people including Rees.
“The planning, the lawyers, these things don’t sound very appealing and they aren’t things we campaign for, but just to keep the wheels of a city moving we need the investment in local government,” said the mayor.
“Austerity is disinvestment in a place, disinvestment in British cities. We need investment because it is cities which have the answer to many of the problems we face now.”
Socialist author and journalist Owen Jones also spoke:
Two days. At least three protests. Next week, mayor Rees will argue on Bristol’s behalf in Westminster against Government-imposed cuts and he hopes that the sight of thousands of people protesting in the pouring rain will make a difference.