Saturday, 5 September 2009

A snapshot of the English Defence League's true face

As I write, details are beginning to emerge of yet another fascist riot perpetrated by the English Defence League (EDL) and Casuals United (CU). At 13:55 today, someone going under the pseudonym "Anarchist" posted the following brief report on Indymedia UK;

Breaking News: EDL demo in Brum is kicking off big time

Anarchist | 05.09.2009 13:55 | Birmingham
The English Defence League demo is kicking off
Just heard that a sizeable large mob of EDL are kicking off in Brum against a much smaller antifascist counter demo. More news soon.
Since then, BBC News reported that "right-wing protestors and anti-fascist campaigners have clashed in Birmingham." According to the dispatch, "more than 20 men have been arrested on a bus in Digbeth" and "a 41-year-old man was also arrested for violent disorder in Waterloo Street" after "sporadic outbreaks of disorder took place in Bennetts Hill and New Street, with missiles being thrown." The Birmingham Post added that "trouble ensued" after the EDL met"on Broad Street in the city's entertainment district" and "proceeded to New Street."

The incident comes after the Post described efforts "to ensure that anti-Islamic extremist protests by the English Defence League and counter demonstrations by Unite Against Fascism do not lead to clashes in the city’s main Saturday shopping areas" on Thursday.

This is not the first time that a demonstration by the EDL and affiliated groups has descended into violence. In May, the anti-Islamic street movement came to prominence when "nine men were arrested" after "an Asian man was assaulted, a shop window was smashed and several cars were damaged in the town centre." In August, the group made its first appearence in Birmingham, where "its first significant protest ended in violence and 35 arrests" after "its small band of supporters was drastically outnumbered by anti-fascist campaigners and riot police."

Today's repeat appearence in Birmingham only adds to the list of violent incidents under the EDL banner. It also helps us to build up a disturbing image of the bigotry and mindless jingoism driving the group. Their website is always keen to stress peaceful intent, but immediately the reputation of the leadership utterly destroys that claim. As Kirklees Unity reports;
EDL makes three claims very publicly: firstly, that they are very distinct from the BNP; secondly, they do not advocate violence; and thirdly that they are opposed to racism. There is clear evidence to show that these declarations do not stand up to examination.

BNP links

Leaked documents written by Barry Taylor, a former Milton Keynes BNP member, reveal that the hooligans – otherwise known as the MIGs (Men in Gear) – played a key role in the local BNP branch. According to Taylor;
A lot of the activism and support in Luton was due to the group of friends known as the MIGs. When Nick Griffin made a visit to our area in February 2007 the MIGs were not invited. Subsequently they discovered that they had been excluded from the guest list and were very disappointed. This was a very disrespectful way to treat our allies. The ‘loss of face’ that this caused for their leaders caused them to stop attending meetings and also prevented their campaigning on our behalf in Luton. These men had previously represented about 50% of the available workforce for Luton.

Luton English Defence League activist Matt Unsworth Luton English Defence League activist Davy Cooling
Luton English Defence League activists Matt Unsworth (left) and Davy Cooling
One of these MIG activists was Davy Cooling, who lived in Luton at the time although he has since moved to Daventry, where he works as a council driver. A fully-fledged BNP member, Cooling is now a key activist in the EDL Luton “division”. This is demonstrated by his status as administrator of the Luton division’s Facebook group. Cooling still shows interest in the party, as shown by his posting on the Facebook site of the BNP’s 2009 Red, White and Blue Festival, which said: “I may attend, it will be my first one – what’s the score?”

The positioning of a BNP member at the helm of the EDL’s core division runs contrary to the League’s strenuous attempts to distance itself from far-right political parties. As far as Luton is concerned this was compromised very early on when a man arrested twice for using foul and abusive language during EDL demonstrations was revealed to be David Tull, a well known former National Front member.

Promotion of violence

The EDL makes great play of being innocent bystanders when violence kicks off at its demonstrations. Indeed, it put much of the blame for the disturbances at its Birmingham event of 8 August on the presence of Unite Against Fascism. However, the UAF has not been visibly present during the two disturbances in Luton, particularly the May event when 300 EDL activists went on the rampage overturning cars, smashing windows and attacking passers-by. 

Sean Walsh, a Luton EDL activist, uses the EDL Luton division Facebook page to suggest some particularly dangerous tactics to use against the police when being hemmed-in. Walsh suggests: “if the police make a square surrounding you the protesters should all be in organised groups specializing in their strengths and weaknesses there should be a core of strong people (heavy infantry) with the ability to penetrate a weak point in polices defences with a wedge attack and create a opening and be able to hold the opening for the other protesters to break through the opening. Adaptability is the key.”

Interestingly, Walsh is a signed-up member of the Bedfordshire BNP Facebook group.

Promoting racism

Matt Unsworth, a 19 year-old EDL member, made strenuous attempts to introduce a “cultural” dimension to the demonstration in Luton that was scheduled for 19 September before it was banned. He sought to secure the Leeds-based singer Anglo-Saxon to play a gig in Luton that evening, with a Facebook message that read: “Respect to you for sticking to what you believe in and I admire your work. You are a credit to soceity! [sic]. Also I might get you to come down to Luton for a show in September on the day of the protest if you are interested?”

It is fortunate for Luton that Anglo Saxon was not available on that day, as the singer was arrested in 2007 for incitement to racial hatred for the lyrics of his song, This is England:
Is this the land you want to leave to your children
They bleed the state and ask for more …
They took the passport, they took the pound
And now they’ve bombed the underground.
It is very hollow for the EDL to make banners bearing the slogan “black and white unite and fight” if at the same time they seek to promote artists who spread the creed of race hate.

Unsworth attracted the attention of the national EDL leadership through his attempts to book Anglo-Saxon, in particular a shadowy character called EDL South, who clearly has a key role in the organisation. Soon after his encounter with EDL South, Unsworth created a new Facebook persona by the name of Luton English, separating his feverish political postings from the social chit-chat. No doubt he is following instructions from his new political masters.

To which Richard Bartholomew at Barth's Notes adds the following insight;

Meet the English Defence League Leadership

Bring Out the EDL
A YouTube channel belonging to Paul Ray carries a three-part interview with three men in balaclavas who are apparently the leadership of the “English Defence League“. The interview takes place in what appears to be the ruins of a castle or abbey; this is doubtless another bit of romantic Crusader medievalism (an obsession of the “anti-Jihadi” movement as a whole), but it means that the microphone is seriously affected by wind, making parts of the video virtually inaudible. [UPDATE: The interviewer is Martin Mawyer, who runs the Christian Action Network - see here]. The speaker on the right does most of the talking, with occasional input from the guy in the middle. The person on the left doesn’t have anything to say.
The main speaker complains that his home town is being taken over by Muslims, who, he claims, have a birth rate of 10 children per family. He says that on occasions of one minute silences in the town “any Asians” will deliberately make noise, and that they yearly celebrate 9/11. He also objects to Muslims “infiltrating” the local council and government, and suggests that they make decisions to close down churches and turn them into mosques, and to ban St. George’s Day parades while allowing extremist events. Further, he alleges that the police arrested protestors from across all the local estates as a strategy in order to discourage further protests, and that the arrests were in the form of raids in which doors were smashed open.
He also describes the antics of Anjem Choudary, in particular the recent incident in which a bewildered white 11-year-old passerby was “persuaded” to convert to Islam at one of Choudary’s roadshow events. In particular, he believes Choudary should be arrested for incitement for having a banner which reads “Jesus was a Muslim”. The speaker in the middle, meanwhile, says that his friend had been stabbed to death by 10 “Pakistani Muslims”. He also complains that while white locals know better than to use the word “Paki”, local Muslims use the word “kaffir”. This is unlike Paul Ray’s view: Ray insists that “Paki” is neutral, like “Brit”, and the only people claiming it to be offensive are Muslim extemists.
At the same time, the bellicose posturing of EDL members on internet forums utterly belies the groups stated non-violent intentions. In July, I reported on my own bizarre encounters with Casuals United members claiming to be members of the "Hur al-Ayn" (the Islamic maidens of paradise), but it seems that this was just the tip of the iceberg. As an example, the Lancaster Unity coverage of today's riots received the following comment;
Davey BCF said...
The Border City Firm couldnt make the trip with us having a home game today so we got one of your tossers last night.

Were on the march to get you all !! Killington lake was nothing compared to whats going to happen . so you better post this you pathetic fucking bunch.

5:14 PM, September 05, 2009
The link offered is to a story in the Carlisle News & Star, which tells us that "two thugs punched a man to the ground as he walked home in Carlisle" "at about 11.30pm on Thursday," which speaks volumes about the mentality of those who associate with the EDL and CU.

Clearly, then, with three high-profile street battles under their belt, and ties to both fascism and football hooliganism, the EDL, their sister groups the Welsh and Scottish Defence Leagues, and Casuals United are confirmed and growing threat. In the face of such a fact, the direct resistance to them already undertaken by anti-fascists is to be welcomed. However, with a further fascist rally due in Manchester on October 10th and the possibility of many more, there is clearly much more to be done. Hence, I second the call by the Aliance for Workers' Liberty in favour of "mass mobilisation, direct action and self-defence against racists and fascists."

We cannot let our communities be divided by mobs of violent racists at a time when, in the midst of economic crisis, the working class needs to exercise unity and solidarity.