A strange day on Saturday for those of us in the city centre. We had been warned all week by the police and authorities that the EDL march had been planned, and that we should get prepared.
Between us and the other pubs in the city centre it was all becoming a nuisance. The busiest day of the week and suddenly we were having to contemplate closing so that a bunch of hysterical hooligans could march through the city daubed in the St George’s flag like some scene from ‘Football Factory’.
The English Defence League were to walk from Castle Mall gardens to City Hall where they would face (through barriers) the opposition group “We are Norwich”. The more you started to read about the affect that the EDL have had in disrupting other cities, the more you started to feel concern.
A dark cloud had suddenly formed and the social networking sites had suddenly opened floodgates for the eyes of the EDL to suss out how much affect they were having in stirring things here. Suddenly tweets were flying around from followers you didn’t want….
So the plan was to just stay put, keep quiet, and try not to stir anything up until they had left and we felt it safe to open the doors and carry on as normal.
As I arrived in the morning the “We are Norwich” crowds had begun to accumulate in Chapelfield and were moving towards City Hall. Despite the foul weather, there was an incredible family feel. Children getting stuck in, everyone from the Pride organisation to various religious groups. Everyone chatting with one another. I was amazed by how many had turned out.
The police presence was extraordinary. I’ve never known anything like it. We got in to the pub and went to the balcony to look at what was going on. Later than planned, a gigantic roar emerged and a lot of police flashing lights became visible from Guildhall Hill. Kettled by a sea of luminous yellow, the EDL came to their meeting point and began their speeches.
There was something eerie about watching it unfold. Particularly in front of the building which Hitler had designated to be his Eastern headquarters should he have succeeded in the war!
But to watch them face the crowd on the other side, a crowd stronger not only in size but clearly in intellect and love made you feel utterly defiant. I suddenly realised I should have had a great big “We are Norwich” flag draped from the windows or something…
Despite the loss of trade there was something necessary about Saturday to remind us how lucky we are to live here. A city thriving with all walks of life.
As someone who has never succumbed to bullies, I am furious that in many ways I did to some extent on Saturday by closing to begin with. How dare they command that? I won’t even be shutting on my wedding day!
We opened again at 4pm to a charming crowd, buzzing with tales of the day.
To all those who were part of, and organised the anti-protest under the banner “We are Norwich” you have my utter respect and thorough gratefulness that you exist in this city. Thank you.