Hanging out in the midst of the EDL


10:59 pm - February 5th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Around 3000 supporters of the English Defence League came to the town of Luton today. Around 12,000 were expected, but in the end the turnout was far below anyone expected. There were nearly as much police as the EDL supporters.

The EDL supporters had three pubs they could congregate at, on a narrow road behind Luton station. I decided that rather than just take pictures from afar, I would go into the crowd and speak to some of them.

To be fair to the EDL supporters, I got no hostility or any racial slurs thrown in my direction. But then I mostly hung out with Denis Edwards, a black EDL supporter who knew lots of people there. He has a long history of being involved with football supporters – travelling up and down the country. Many people knew him and they were happy to talk to me.

A brief video, from the midst of the supporters, mostly to catch a sense of the rowdy crowd

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Good stuff, brave stuff, Sunny.

Did that experience inform you about how journalists work?

When I moved to England from Germany because of the multi-culturalism I expected to find here, I was not exactly thinking of black EDL supporters.

Just because it’s relevent, my friend Andy Strange, a Luton Cllr also wondered around both events:
Eyewitness report of today’s EDL rally in Luton « Strange Thoughts

And this is why your worth reading sunny, good stuff.

Fair play for going along to see what they are like close up. Are they as bad as UAF say they are? Are they ”fascist scum” who should be forced off the streets?

Many of them are certainly obnoxious stupid and thuggish. I always thought that they should be ignored more than opposed by counter demonstrations. I might be wrong, but upping the anti by making it an exciting event for those among them who like confrontation with opposition, might have helped their movement.

6. So Much For Subtlety

They look …. so middle class and well behaved.

I did not expect that.

One black member amongst thousands of white faces, says it all about this organisation.

There were only 1,500 EDL supporters, and between 500 and 1,000 UAF protesters. Combined fewer than the number of police present on the day.

The policing operation alone cost ~£1,000,000, which is about £450 per person marching on the day. Of course there was also the cost to the Council of preparing the town and clearing up afterwards, and the cost to local businesses – not just of lost revenue, but of boarding up their shops the day before – greater than this though there is the reputational damage to Luton.

The guy calling himself Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who ‘leads’ the EDL is from Bedford.

They look …. so middle class and well behaved.

I did not expect that.

Why not? The only people I’ve ever witnessed chunter on in full Littlejohn viciousness about ‘elf and safety were middle class, shouldn’t be too surprising that some of them are also very concerned about Littlejohn’s other bugbears.

Interesting that the EDL was formed to oppose extreme Islamism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Defence_League

whilst the UAF was formed to counter fascism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_Against_Fascism

It might reasonably be argued they should be marching arm in arm……….

Middle class? Wha…? Where did that impression come from?

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Pagar

In theory, yes, but the spoken (shouted) views of many EDL supporters go far beyond disliking Islamic extremism. And UAF’s outlook is in itself somewhat fascist. So neither group really represents what it was formed to represent.

Judging from footage, it seems what many on both sides really want is an excuse to punch someone.

@10

You’re not making sense – what do extreme interpretations of Islam and corporate control of state assets (to use Mussolini’s original definition of fascism) have in common?

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 13

I think your problem there is that you’re using one, albeit the original, definition of “fascism”, which is not what people generally means when they say it. The term has broadened quite severely.

Pagar’s essentially pointing out the kind of system the UAF fears could arise under extreme-right government in the UK is very similar to the kind of system Islamic extremists want.

@12 “And UAF’s outlook is in itself somewhat fascist.” – Indeed, a point that seems to completly fly by most of the UAF. Although I can’t see the footage (just got a blank white space on this page??) I’ve always felt that many of the members of both groups mainly enjoy having a good punch up.

@13 – You are aware that Nazi Germany didn’t use the corporatist policies favoured by Italian fascists? Which leaves a whole list of other characteristics associated with the fascist label which bear a fair correlation with the views of harline islamists.

The trouble that EDL have at the moment is that their public message as stated by their official spokemem and publications seem to be not entirely unreasonable – wheras in practice I get the impression that the actual views of many of their members simply use the campaign against Islamism as an excuse for their racism and bigotry. Similarly I am convinced that many Labour and Conservative supporters are happy to champion states policies of their parties as a cover for their own bigoted beliefs.

I suppose it all depends on how much of a sham you think the EDL message is.

If they were serious about their cause, you would think they would expell members exhibiting pure racism.

Considering that the media has represented EDL as “racist” for most of the last 18 months, it would hardly be surprising if non-white people were in a minority at such an event. Indeed, our intrepid (or rather trepidatious) reporter clearly expected to be racially abuse by the surprise he expresses in NOT being racially abused. If someone as “well-informed” as Sunny still fell for the “racist” slur, then why should the working-class non-white people be any better informed? One of my non-white friends who went to an EDL demo told me that not only did he not receive any racist abuse, no one in the thousands there seemed to notice or care that he was not white.

And whilst there might only be one black man shown in the video taken by Sunny, clearly there were other non-white people at the Luton demo, since the BBC has an interview with one of the muslim members of EDL:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12375175

Finally, there are photos here of many of the different races to be found at EDL demos:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=40860&id=132236756794102

As you can see from those photos, there were a fair number at that one demo in Nuneaton – the same day that The Independent carried a report (written by a muslim) claiming the EDL were “white extremists”.

Considering all the brouhaha about Rabbi Shifren flying over to join the Jewish Division at the Luton demo, it seems that nothing will shake some people of the commentators here from their middle-class hatred of the working class

“One black member amongst thousands of white faces, says it all about this organisation.”

So it was a bit like Glastonbury then?

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 Geofff

“I suppose it all depends on how much of a sham you think the EDL message is.”

From what I can tell (and this is admittedly based on a documentary I watched), the EDL is made up of a pretty broad church: people who agree with the stated message; racists and Islamaphobes; disenfranchised working-class people who aren’t really interested in the religion thing and just want better representation; and people who miss the football riots of thirty years ago.

“If they were serious about their cause, you would think they would expell members exhibiting pure racism.”

In fairness, they do at least attempt to police their own rallies: anyone refusing to stop shouting racist slogans can be pulled off the front line. You could put that down to pure PR, but it does show that the people at the top don’t want the message to be simply anti-Muslim. On the other hand, if they didn’t want to attract bastards, the decision to call their club the English Defense League and to use the same symbol as the National Front seems naive at best.

Cardiff City just played in Swansea this afternoon, A fixture that always has the potential for trouble, but the two thousand plus travelling Cardiff fans will have generated much less of police operation than in Luton yesterday.

UAF and the left have hyped the EDL up and hardened their hooligan base.
Frustrated them and made every rally they hold confrontatial, and may have kept their numbers down by scaring away ”respectable” people.

Which might be a good tactic. It keeps the EDL smaler and less influential, and it helps unite people around things like UAF and Hope not Hate.

I’ve never been that happy with that approach as there seems something dishonest about it. The EDL might have dissapeared by now, but for the attention they have gotten.

But then again as you can’t be sure, maybe it was better to go the safe route and declare them as ”Nazi scum” etc, and get local students and youth mobilised against them.

one of the muslim members of EDL

That’ll be Glasgow Abdul, its *only* known Muslim member. For a member of a supposedly non-racist organisation, he doesn’t seem to show much tolerance toward Irish Catholics, as can be seen here;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0kL_URt4uo

and this footage of him – and his mates – being interviewed at Bradford would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBT9aoeXdWM

“That’ll be Glasgow Abdul, its *only* known Muslim member.”

I was pointing out that just because there was only one non-white face shown in Sunny’s “intrepid” camerawork, it doesn’t mean that there were not more non-white people there.

Why do you expect muslims to publicly and identifiably appear in front of a camera criticising islamists? He must be a rather brave man.

Raheel Raza of the Muslim Canadian Congress has been touring England this week. She’s an articulate, middle-class, professional muslim woman. And she is living under threat of death for opposing Hizb ut Tahrir and Zakir Naik. How many people have to live under the threat of death for speaking their mind before you realise that you should be protecting their rights to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association?

The EDL website used to carry an article by a British Pakistani apostate, who is in hiding because of the death threats he’s received. I know of other apostates who have had to disappear and go into hiding. Where’s the government’s £148 million a year being spent to protect apostates?

Another white working-class friend of mine went on the EDL demo to Peterborough. And he took his muslim girlfriend with him. What do you want her to do? Appear on camera to show she’s got bigger balls than you have?

The Independent had a fascinating interview with the EDL ‘leader’ a few months ago.

Their ‘movement’ is hard to pin down because it’s not a membership based body, more an unbrella title for a number of different groups of people to protest under.

Someone commented that they don’t expel openly racist members, but it’s impossible to expel people if there’s nothing for them to have joined in the first place.

I think it’s foolish to just label them all as just out and out racists like the BNP, their lack of a central message or policy means that as well as the BNP/NF types, and the hard core of ex-football hooligans there are also a wide range of people from a broad range of backgrounds with an equally broad range of views attending their rallies.

There are valid concerns about the rise of the radical forms of Islamist extremism which need to be addressed and the liberal consensus needs to deal with these Muslim fascists before those who have these concerns get dragged into supporting the more widely racist groups that tar all Muslims with the Islamist tag.

It’s happened before in places like Barking, where the left-wing and liberal parties ignored concerns about immigration and labelled all those expressing genuine concerns about pressure on housing and jobs as racists and let their traditional supporters drift into the hands of the BNP.

Those of us with liberal views need to be working with the vast majority of Muslims with similarly liberal views to address legitimate concerns about radical Islamists and marginalise both the Islamists and the racists who would label all Muslims in the same way.

23. Just Visiting

Hear hear:

> How many people have to live under the threat of death for speaking their mind before you realise that you should be protecting their rights to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association?

That includes two of my friends, attacked twice at their home here in my quiet UK market town – attacked by Muslims because they have given up that faith. (now they have left town to start again elsewhere – what else could they after GBH and then attempted murder)

And another friend (seeking asylum here), attached on the premises of his college – again by a Muslim, for his becoming an apostate.
The college put the attacker on suspension. The police did not press charges…

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Just Visiting

First off, you’re right that this sort of shit should be dealt with. I’m not arguing at all with the bulk of your post. However:

“The college put the attacker on suspension. The police did not press charges…”

Ending on this note, especially with that ellipsis at the end, suggests rather strongly that you want to imply that ignoring violence commited by Muslims is normal behaviour in this country. I’ve never seen anything to suggest that.

If someone was attacked, but the attacker was only suspended and no charges were brought, that seems to leave two likely options. One: the attack was relatively minor, and people decided not to react too much to a single punch thrown in the middle of a heated row (or something like that). Two: the attack may have been more severe, but there was insufficient evidence against the accused to warrant charges or justify expulsion.

haha nice one. What did you talk to them about? What did they say? Is there more?

26. Chaise Guevara

Oh, and Just Visiting, from the letter in question:

“Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the prime minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.”

Which rather undermines the idea that they only think it’s wrong to attack innocent Muslims, doesn’t it?

27. Chaise Guevara

Wrong thread! Sunny, if you get a moment you might want to delete my comment above.

@Chaise Guevara

It is simply not true that the police take action against death threats from muslims. I was speaking to a prominent christian (reasonable, middle class, professional) who was the major focus for objection to a huge mosque being built. He received death threats directed to him, his wife and his two small children. He reported it to the police, and the culprit was found, but was let off with a caution. The family who were the victims of this feel they have been left completely unprotected, and are very unhappy with that outcome. Tommy Robinson faced far more serious charges than this muslim would-be murderer, and all that Tommy Robinson did was grab the islamic flag of war off one of those muslim fanatics from MAC.

When does the EDL distribute literature calling for muslims to be executed, or even attacked? I’m sick and tired of the last 20 years of muslims threatening to kill or assault their opponents or even those of whom they disapprove. It’s just another form of terrorism, and it can be traced back to the very behaviour of Mohammed, who had his political enemies assassinated.

No-one should have to suffer threats of murder, violence or other forms of intimidation. No-one.

One of the reasons why tolerant liberals have failed to stand up to islamic-fascism for the past 20 years is because they fear for their lives. The terrorism worked – only courageous people like Peter Tatchell would go and intervene in a Hizb ut Tahrir conference, only to be told by them “we know where you live and we will come and kill you”. But because middle-class liberals failed to defend liberality, we now have the situation where it has fallen to the “uneducated working class from council estates” to defend our freedoms and to extend those freedoms to minorities within muslim communities. Instead of criticising the EDL (hunt the black face in the crowd), we should be helping them and doing our bit to make sure that the defence of freedom is done in a robust but mindful way. We can’t expect the ruling elite to get us out of the difficulties we are in – it was clear that most of the British people did not want to see Iraq invaded, yet the elite went ahead regardless.

15 years ago Peter Tatchell drew attention to the threats of violence at universities from muslim fundamentalists: | Al-Muhajiroun … condemns gay relationships as “perverted acts”, comparable to “rape and murder”. It says that homosexual relations are “crimes against humanity”, which merit “severe punishment”. It goes on to boast with approval the Islamic injunction that homosexuals should be put to death… Hizb ut Tahrir likewise justifies the murder of lesbians and gay men: “The Islamic Verdict on Homosexuality … If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done”… Hizb ut Tahrir is especially active on college campuses in London and Manchester. Jewish and gay students have suffered harassment and threats… Some gay students – and lecturers – are so worried about possible assaults by Hizb ut Tahrir supporters that they have ceased to be open about their homosexuality. |

1996: http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/islamic.htm

I’ve never heard of anyone being prosecuted for these threats. And surprise, surprise — the same threats are going on just as they were 15 years ago. Perhaps lefties will believe it now that the report comes from the muslims at Quilliam:

2010: http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/islamist-radicalisation-at-british-universities.htm

You clearly haven’t met the gay people who’ve been threatened or attacked.

You clearly don’t know any muslim apostates or converts to other religions who have been threatened or attacked. I feel desperately sorry for the apostates I know – they don’t even have a community to turn to for support the way muslim converts to christianity do. They don’t have a new faith – they just want to share in the same freedoms of speech and freedom of religious choice our society supposedly promises them.

2005: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14689.htm

2007: http://www.christiantoday.co.uk/article/bishop.nazirali.warns.of.attacks.on.muslimchristian.converts/13252.htm

Your touching faith in the police and the legal system sounds like something from 1955. We know from the recent spate of muslim gangs who groomed children for sex, that the police and authorities have turned a blind eye to muslim criminality for a very long time.

And I will condemn equally strongly anyone who threatens muslims with violence. I don’t think the EDL’s strategy of large demonstrations in muslim-dense towns is the right strategy. But when the EDL held a demo in Aylesbury the criticism was “why are you coming here – this is not a muslim town”. Yet something must be done to force these subjects into the public arena – most people I talk to have never heard of Hizb ut Tahrir and have no idea that it has thousands of members and wishes to install a dictatorship.

One thing is clear – the UAF lies and attempts to promote race riots in these towns should lead to the UAF becoming a proscribed organisation. I read that the UAF were actually kept out of Bury Park in Luton this weekend, because it was known they would be in there with their oft-repeated “the nazis are coming to burn down the mosque” refrain. Communists like the UAF have helped create the islamic fundamentalist problem in Britain, and they don’t want the light of publicity turned on their contribution to the problem.

When 40% of young muslims are saying they would like to see apostates executed, alarm bells should be ringing. We know from the stories of “assisted” suicide and homelessness amongst young gay muslims, that the community pressure is extremely intense. And the same kind of pressure is brought to bear on apostates and converts. I was brought up in a strict christian home. But when I became an adult and declared myself an atheist, no-one even criticised me, let alone threatened to kill me. And surveys show that the younger generation of British muslims are far more fundamentalist than their parents generation. Intervention is required, and it has been overdue for 20 years.

To leave muslim communities to abuse their power over minority members of those communities is an act of racism. It is to say “we don’t care about what you do to apostates or homosexuals – because they are not white, they are not part of our tribe, and they do not deserve the freedoms we think should apply to us.” It is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls “the racism of low expectations”.

29. Just Visiting

James 21

Yes that women Raheel Raza is a brave Muslim.

She is under threat from other Muslims for her view on the Ground Zero Mosque.

Here on LC our illustrious leader Sunny has mocked those who disagree with the mosque (see Watch: ‘Stop Ground Zero Mosque song’)

But Raheel has said:
> The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel.

30. Just Visiting

Chaise

> Ending on this note, especially with that ellipsis at the end, suggests rather strongly that you want to imply that ignoring violence commited by Muslims is normal behaviour in this country. I’ve never seen anything to suggest that.

Well, you can google for yourself what others have experienced.

My experience – of 3 attacks on 3 friends, attacks by Muslims, because my friends had given up being Muslims… in not one have the police prosecuted.

In one attack (there were several attckers) their one suspect had already left they country the day after. That was GBH, in their own home! Targeted right at them.

Secod attack was in the street – was attempted murder, neither of my friends injured got a good look at their attackers

Third attack, took place at college. Like I said, the college took it seriously enough to exclude the attacker, the police did not press charges.

You have got me wondering now if it would be possible for me to find out why not… the identity of the attacker is known, and the college obviously thought there was enough evidence to act…so it is strange…

Anyway – it’s anecdotal – but 3 attacks and no police charges.

JV
Oh and I was told of another by our MP – a student at Uni – attacker known, because the student wanted to complete his studies, and the attacker was also a student….. the student decided not to press charges. He was rightly I suspect concerned about his safety with the attacker free to threaten him at university…

Anyway – it’s anecdotal

nuff said.

So what has Muslim gangs got to do with Islamic extremists/radicals? It’s like me saying white gangs who deal with prostitution or child kidnapping in Europe are fundamental Christians?? How can they have a Muslim member? He must be delusional as all Mr Robinson does is rant about the Quran (which is sacred to Muslims) and dishonour the Prophet of Islam. So this ONLY Muslim member is a real hypocrite. As for Hizbut Tahrir when they were at their height in the 90’s did not know who their Sheikh/leader was! Why? Because they did not have one! So what does that tell you about this organisation?

“Cardiff City just played in Swansea this afternoon, A fixture that always has the potential for trouble, but the two thousand plus travelling Cardiff fans will have generated much less of police operation than in Luton yesterday.”

Thats partly because the known troublemakers are banned from the stadium and surrounding area, tickets are highly restricted for the fixture (i.e. you have to provide ID, and Swansea Fans living in cardiff simply won’t get tickets for the home end), and away fans are only allowed to be bussed in with a drinks ban on those busses, plus the game was televised. I could also be unkind and speculate that the troublemakers were also in Luton instead…..

34. Chaise Guevara

@ Just Visiting

“Anyway – it’s anecdotal – but 3 attacks and no police charges.”

Exactly – it’s anecdotal. I’m having trouble coming up with a believable reason that the cops, en masse, would decide to protect Muslim suspects.

Googling would only net me more anecdotes – probably mostly from people complaining that the police let them down after they were attacked by a Muslim or from papers reporting Muslims convicted of especially violent offences, because that’s the sort of thing that gets reported. Whereas stories about occurrences that are unremarkable on the national scale – such as someone being convicted of assault – are not so likely to end up high in the search results.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  2. sunny hundal

    Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  3. Counterfire

    RT @sunny_hundal: Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  4. Press Not Sorry

    RT @sunny_hundal: Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  5. Thetis

    RT @sunny_hundal: Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  6. DarkestAngel

    RT @sunny_hundal: Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  7. ZA Singh

    RT @sunny_hundal: Some video and pictures I took today RT @libcon: Hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  8. Yasmin Khan

    Hanging out in the midst of the EDL | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/OeBubHg via @libcon

  9. Nemesis Republic

    @sunny_hundal on #EDL #UAF #Luton http://tinyurl.com/4r2f996

  10. sunny hundal

    Incase you missed it yesterday, some video and pictures I took today while hanging out in the midst of the EDL http://bit.ly/fBLFiD

  11. Old Holborn

    Honey Sundial goes into the Lions den http://bit.ly/gHAeLU

  12. Rachel Hubbard

    Hanging out in the midst of the EDL | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/TdfnGAE via @libcon

  13. sunny hundal

    @Steven_Maclean @WailQ @RuwaydaMustafah indeed – as I found in Luton when I went into the EDL crowds http://t.co/Y6GCraM

  14. sunny hundal

    @Sov_Res @MCFLR I have actually http://t.co/Y6GCraM

  15. Joey

    Not so racist #EDL http://t.co/O6ZxLVO Asian guy walks into crowd and talks with the guys.

  16. She who returned

    @HarpyMarx yeah, at the Luton demo he went over to their side to chat with them http://t.co/e75ubEv





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