The BNP and EDL A new racist political group is organising on the streets. They call themselves the English Defence League, but who are they and what do they represent?
lan Lake is a middle aged English businessman. Last September he addressed an anti-Islam conference organised by the racist Sweden Democrats in Malmo. This shady figure told delegates that it was necessary to build an anti-Jihad movement that was "ready to go out onto the street". He also claimed that he and his friends had already begun to build alliances with football supporters.
One month later Lake told a Daily Telegraph journalist, "We are worn out with words. You need to have people on the streets. You have to get the message out." The article went on to claim that Lake was seeking to harness football hooligan "firms" by timing demonstrations to coincide with matches. Lake boasted, "These guys [football hooligans] are prepared to demonstrate, and they are already there because there is a match. This is a dirty, nasty, difficult struggle and you have to work with what is available." Alan Lake is a key financier of the English Defence League (EDL).
The EDL's last day of action took place in Stoke on 23 January 2010. But it wasn't a protest - it was an anti-Muslim riot. Groups of football hooligans from 22 clubs rampaged through the streets. Prominent British National Party (BNP) activists, and an assorted bunch of racists and fascists, joined them. Worryingly, a couple of coachloads of "off duty" soldiers from two regiments joined the mob. These thugs tried to attack a counter-protest called by Unite Against Fascism (UAF). The EDL smashed their way through two police lines, overturning riot vans, but were blocked by a third police line. They then directed their anger on the Asian community, smashing up shops and attacking Asian people. Stoke is a warning to every anti-fascist and socialist.
The Scottish Defence League (SDL) and its counterpart, the Welsh Defence League (WDL), have now also spawned from the bowels of the EDL. All of them have staged a number of violent anti-Muslim protests around the country.
The roots of the EDL go back to Luton, March 2009. On that day troops from the Royal Anglian Regiment held a parade to welcome soldiers home from Afghanistan. As they marched through the town's streets a small group of young Muslims protested. An angry crowd set upon them, also attacking other Asians watching the parade, including Luton's mayor. Hoping to capitalise on the situation, a group of football hooligans and fascists organised two anti-Islam protests in Luton on 13 April and 24 May. The protest in May saw hundreds of thugs rampaging through the town's Asian area.
In an attempt to build on the "success" of Luton, the EDL organised a protest in Birmingham on 8 August. Unite Against Fascism organised a counter-protest. Thousands turned up and the EDL were run out of town. When the EDL organised a second protest in the city, on 5 September, some of the local UAF officials refused to call a counter-protest, worried that it would lead to a riot. This was a mistake. So as not to allow the EDL free rein, the Socialist Workers Party and groups of Asian youths organised a counter-protest. Hundreds of people turned up and once again the EDL were forced to flee the city.
An organisation calling itself "Stop the Islamification of Europe" (STIOE) tried to jump on the EDL bandwagon and called a protest in Harrow, north west London, on 11 September. Again thousands of black, white and Asian youth supported UAF's call. They drove the thugs off the streets.
The EDL were clearly put on the back foot. But a series of protests over the next few months enabled them to build up their forces. An EDL demonstration in Manchester on 10 October saw 700 EDL members take to the streets and 1,400 joined the UAF counter-protest. The WDL then organised marches in Swansea on 18 October and a week later in Newport, South Wales. Once again they were opposed by large numbers of anti-fascists. On 31 October about 900 EDL supporters protested in Leeds and up to 1,500 UAF supporters held a counter-protest. This was followed on 5 December, when about 500 EDL protesters assembled in Nottingham following an earlier parade by members of the 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment returning from Afghanistan.
Who are they?
The movement around the EDL appears to be escalating. The central question is, what kind of organisation are they? The foot soldiers are clearly drawn from a number of football hooligan "firms", including Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers, Luton, Aston Villa, Bristol Rovers, Wolves and Preston North End.
The media like to portray these hooligans as working class "yobs". No survey has been conducted on the class base of the EDL, but what little we know about them suggests that many come from "petty bourgeois" professions - the classic base of fascism. The leadership of the EDL clearly comes from the "petty bourgeois", but as they grow they are atracting more working class support.
For example, one of the leading figures behind the Luton protest is a self-employed carpenter and another runs his own internet company. The spokesperson for STIOE at the Harrow protest was an American student based at King's College. Two well known Chelsea hooligans were spotted on the EDL protest in Stoke, one of whom works in the City of London and donates Ł500 a month to the BNP, and the other runs his own van driving company. At last month's UAF conference a journalist who is presently working undercover in the EDL told a group of delegates that the EDL were "little businessmen types". Although these young men are drawn to the defence leagues by the promise of violence, the political cement that holds them together is anti-Muslim racism - Islamophobia.
Across Europe we have seen a terrifying rise in anti-Muslim racism since 9/11. In Switzerland the building of mosque minarets has been banned. In France there are attempts to ban the veil being worn by Muslim women in public. Here in Britain the Labour government has played a despicable role in fostering Islamophobia. The "war on terror" and the criminalisation of Asian youth have helped legitimise the ideas of the EDL.
The rise of the EDL is as rapid as it is shocking - but it is explainable. The EDL are growing in the wake of the BNP's electoral success. During the Manchester protest the BBC interviewed a number of EDL supporters. They all talked about the fear of losing their job or business and all of them blamed "foreign" workers. Again this is typical of fascist/ultra right wing nationalist movements. As their world is threatened their fears and frustrations are directed at a scapegoat. Today this is Muslims.
Another feature of the ideas that propel the EDL can be seen on their website. It is more than economic questions that motivate them. They argue that their sense of culture and self-worth is collapsing around them. So the EDL create an idealised view of a past Britain which they feel is threatened by both Islam and the left.
When Leon Trotsky looked at the emerging Nazi movement that mushroomed in Germany after 1929, he argued that the Brownshirt marches, parades and street violence had the effect of terrorising their opponents and giving political direction and the illusion of strength to the movement. He described this effect as "turning worms into dragons". Taking to the streets in large numbers and the thrill of street violence give the young supporters of the EDL a sense of power and prestige.
This is the perfect breeding ground for fascism. So it is no surprise that at the political heart of the EDL lies the Nazi BNP.
From its very beginnings the BNP has played a central role in building and directing the EDL. For instance, Chris Renton, the man behind the EDL website, is a BNP member, and so is Davy Cooling, the administrator of the Luton EDL site. One of the organisers of the Birmingham protests was BNP member Richard Price. Finally, at the Stoke protest, BNP councillors were seen directing the protests and two leading members of Combat 18 (C18), Alan Thompson and Barry Osborne, were in the thick of the violence.
Sections of the BNP see the EDL as their version of a "united front". The EDL is a place where Nazis can meet and recruit angry young people influenced by racist and right wing populist ideas.
Fascist infiltration of football hooligan firms is nothing new. Throughout the 1980s the Nazi National Front (NF) put a lot of resources into recruiting activists from the terraces. The NF's paper, Bulldog, ran a "racist league" table, where supporters competed to earn the title of most racist in the country. Again in the 1990s C18, the street fighting wing of the BNP, combed the football terraces for recruits and were behind the riot that took place at the Ireland v England game at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, in 1995.
How are the defence leagues organising? This is not a spontaneous movement. Clearly some of the EDL groups have come out of the so-called football hooligan firms. Over the last two decades football clubs have been determined to stamp out violence on the terraces. This and increased policing and surveillance at stadiums have forced the violence underground and away from the grounds. This in turn has led to the development of well-organised networks of football gangs who are able to organise fights in secluded areas and many of them have avoided police detection and infiltration.
The second factor that has aided the defence leagues has been the internet. Much of their organising has been done through the EDL website and numerous Facebook groups. More worrying has been the development of EDL branches, some of whom meet every month to plan activities and demonstrations.
It would be a mistake to write off the EDL. Yet this is what the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight appears to be arguing. In its February 2010 issue it stated, "The EDL continues to reflect the rising Islamophobia in society but whether it can be more than a rallying point for people with different agendas is unlikely."
Although today this movement is still in an embryonic form, we have seen this type of street-fighting gang before. The EDL has parallels in past fascist movements. For example, in 1919 a group of Mussolini's followers developed a new tactic in rural northern Italy: squadrismo. These strong-arm squads, squadre d'azione, attacked and beat up socialists, smashed up printing presses and terrorised anyone who stood in their way. And Hitler on his road to power was prepared to unleash his Brownshirts on socialists, Jews and trade unionists.
The fact is that all major fascist organisations use both an electoral and a street fighting wing. Indeed, BNP leader Nick Griffin first started life in the street-fighting wing of the NF. He only came out and openly supported greater emphasis on electoral work and downplaying the BNP's fascist ideals in the mid-1990s.
Griffin himself admitted in a speech he made to activists in Kent in 2008 that he too needed to develop a security squad to protect BNP elected officials, meetings and events. But he also understands the real dangers that come with this. In the early 1990s the BNP encouraged the development of C18 to protect its meetings and canvassers. In a short space of time C18 were out of control. They were involved in protectionism, drug running and the lucrative European Nazi music scene. By 1995 they boasted that three quarters of all young BNP members had moved over to them. They even took control of Tower Hamlets BNP branch, at that time the biggest and most successful BNP branch in the country. A year later C18 were in tatters, ripped apart by internal feuds.
For the time being the BNP and EDL are reinforcing one another. But there is a tension developing in the BNP between those excited by the street fighting of the EDL and those who want to continue building up an electoral base and cultivating respectability. If Griffin is going to succeed in his goal of creating a mass fascist party he is going to have to try and ride these two horses at the same time.
The BNP have three aims for the forthcoming general election and council elections. First on their hit list is the parliamentary seat of Barking, presently held by Labour's minister for culture, Margaret Hodge. Secondly, the BNP have set their sights on taking control of Barking council. Their third goal is to win a dozen or so more council seats around the country.
On the surface, the BNP's first goal of winning the Barking seat looks impossible. At the last general election in 2005 Hodge won 47.8 percent of the vote and the BNP gained 17 percent (their highest ever parliamentary election result). But the rise of the Tory vote in the area and boundary changes mean the BNP could come through the middle and win the seat.
In response to these developments a new urgency is sweeping through the anti-fascist movement. The Nazis are making serious breakthroughs at the ballot box and are now marching on our streets.
We have to learn from our past campaigns against the fascists and develop new tactics to deal with a fast changing situation.
In the run-up to the general election, UAF will be campaigning hard to undermine the BNP's vote. Hundreds of activists will be taking the "Don't Vote Nazi" campaign into constituencies the BNP are targeting. We will be delivering hundreds of thousands of leaflets to homes across the country. UAF campaigners will be speaking at trade union meetings, to school kids and student meetings, and to faith groups. Research being carried out by the Labour Party in Barking has shown that UAF's "Don't Vote Nazi" campaign has been the most effective form of propaganda in putting people off from voting BNP.
Another tool in our armoury will be the carnivals and gigs organised by Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR). In the week before the general election LMHR will be holding events in Barnsley, Manchester and Barking. These events attract large numbers of young people and they carry a potent anti-fascist, anti-racist message. Two years ago LMHR organised a carnival in Victoria Park, east London, which attracted a crowd of over 100,000 and last year's event in Stoke pulled in 20,000 people.
The final problem the anti-fascist movement faces is the EDL. If this movement is growing on the terraces of football grounds across the country, then the anti-fascist movement will have to go to the grounds and take the anti-fascist message to the football fans. Already UAF campaigners have leafleted Aston Villa, QPR and Stoke grounds on match days. Clubs like Stoke and Northampton Town have invited UAF/LMHR speakers to address the crowds at half time. Supporters' groups, such as Preston North End, have also asked us to address their meetings. We need to encourage more clubs to do this. We also need to involve the players - football fans are far more likely to listen to their favourite player carrying an anti-EDL message than "Joe Bloggs" from UAF. UAF is also in the process of making an anti-EDL film to be shown at grounds.
Sword and shield
But just being against the BNP and EDL is not enough. UAF is a shield against the rise of fascism but we also need a sword. Resistance to the crisis sweeping Britain is every bit as important as the campaign against the BNP and EDL. Every strike for better pay and conditions, and every campaign to save a hospital or stop a deportation offers hope and undermines the despair the BNP are feeding off. Likewise, the setting up of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition offers a socialist alternative to Labour in a number of constituencies.
From his prison cell in Mussolini's fascist Italy, the revolutionary socialist Antonio Gramsci wrote, "One of our biggest mistakes was not understanding the sudden rise of the squadre d'azione, and in turn our failure to combat it." Of course, the situation in Britain is not as serious as Italy in 1920, but the danger signals are there and we mustn't underestimate the threat from the new fascists.
How sectarian hooligans are killing off Scots far-right
14 Mar 2010
Sectarianism lies behind the failure of the far-right Scottish Defence League to garner any public support in Scotland, its critics have claimed. Opponents of the anti-Islam group said that it was finished north of the border and cited religious bigotry as one of the main factors behind its failure.
With the organisation apparently in meltdown, the Sunday Herald can reveal the group has only 25 members. Less than 100 SDL supporters attended a recent rally in Edinburgh where they were outnumbered by a coalition of more than 2,000 anti-fascists. The rally was only the second time they had protested north of the border, and the low turn-out was in stark contrast to the English Defence League, which attracted more than 1,500 people to its last event in Stoke.
Amid allegations that some members were police informers, the SDL closed its Facebook page after the capital rally and directed supporters to a members-only website with strict instructions that anyone wishing to join must be known by at least two people in the SDL. The SDL previously claimed it had 800 supporters but the new site lists only 25 members. One member called Mark1690 uses a picture of King William of Orange on a white horse while another uses the moniker God Save Our Queen. The site has a video of Enoch Powell giving his infamous Rivers of Blood speech in 1968.
In England, the core of the English Defence League is football hooligan firms who have called an unprecedented nationwide truce to support the movement, but in Scotland this collective agreement has failed to materialise.
The Sunday Herald has learned that casuals who follow Hibernian and Celtic football clubs planned to attack the SDL in Edinburgh because it is made up mainly of protestant Rangers and Hearts football fans. Members of the Capital City Service, a hooligan group that attaches itself to Hibernian, said Celtic fans had contacted them in advance of the SDL demo and asked to join together. “We were already making our own plans to ambush the SDL. The CCS would never support the SDL,” a CCS member said.
Luke Henderson, of Unite Against Fascism, said sectarianism had undoubtedly played a major part in denting support for the SDL. “The Scottish disease [sectarianism] meant that many football casuals refused to support a right-wing SDL comprising mainly of Rangers fans. There has also been a mass mobilisation against the SDL from the outset in Scotland and we have built a strong activist base.”
David Miller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Strathclyde and founder of the politics website Spinwatch, said that the failure of the SDL to garner support also reflected the political landscape in Scotland. He said: “I think it is related to the more consensual approach of the political parties in Scotland. The political class in England has not been as united against the EDL. The sight of Tory Annabel Goldie addressing an anti-racist demonstration on Glasgow Green is one obvious contrast.
“Those associated with the David Cameron leadership in London, especially think-tanks like the Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion, have been at the forefront of Muslim baiting and have limited the chances of a common response. There is also more support for the British National Party in England.” Spinwatch revealed recently that some SDL leaders were members of the British National Party, but this claim was denied by the group.
Casuals United, a nationwide umbrella group of football casuals that supports the English, Scottish and Welsh Defence Leagues, admitted that it had not been possible to unite hooligan “firms” north of the border. “The Scottish football lads seem unable to forget their differences and cannot get past the sectarian divide. We are speaking to various Scottish firms, trying to unite them, and we will not give up,” said Mickey Smith, a hooligan with Cardiff City’s Soul Crew, and spokesman for Casuals United. His colleague Jeff Marsh, founder of both Casuals United and the Welsh Defence League, was sentenced last week for causing an affray and possessing an offensive weapon.
Marsh pleaded guilty and was given a four-month suspended jail term, 150 hours’ community service and ordered to pay Ł600 costs. He was also banned from football matches for five years. Marsh was arrested in Cardiff last summer after attacking Celtic fans who had travelled for a friendly match with Cardiff City.
What remains of the SDL remains defiant, however, and the group claimed to have held a small vigil in Lockerbie last week. The meeting had been scheduled for March 27 in response to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi but was brought forward. An SDL spokesman said: “The reason we changed the date was simple, we had no interest in bringing disorder and the red fascist circus to this lovely Scottish town. We wanted to remember those who were murdered [in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103] with dignity and without left-wing fascists charging around the town looking for confrontation.”
It was also claimed that EDL supporters were in discussions about visiting Northern Ireland for the annual July 12 Orange parades. The claim was made by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, but denied by Alan Lake, an EDL leader in London, who said he had no knowledge of a Northern Ireland connection.
A spokesman for the Orange Order said anyone intent on violence should not travel to parades in Northern Ireland. “Our parades celebrate our culture and tradition and are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people across Northern Ireland. Anyone who wishes to attend these parades for other reasons than to celebrate Orangeism is not welcome,” he said.
The Rangers Worldwide Alliance, an official global network of supporters clubs, was contacted but declined to comment.
EDL outnumbered and outlasted by UAF in Bolton
• click here for reports from the Greater Manchester UAF website
• click here for an analysis of the media from the Expose campaign
Unite Against Fascism protesters were celebrating victory in Bolton on Saturday after the English Defence League was forced to curtail its anti-Muslim rally and retreat from the town's main square. Some 3,000 people of all ages, faiths and background gathered in Bolton throughout the day to join UAF's counter demonstration against the EDL – heavily outnumbering the 800 racists that had gathered for the EDL demo.
Despite constant provocation, around 2,000 UAF protesters held their ground in the north side of Bolton's Victoria Square from early morning and thoughout the day. A further 1,000 anti-racists were prevented from joining the main UAF demo until late afternoon. Once all the UAF supporters were finally allowed to gather together, they took part in an impromptu anti-racist parade through Bolton.
Around 800 EDL racists brandishing anti-Muslim placards were marched into the south side of Victoria Square by police at around 3pm. When a group of local Asian youths joined the UAF protest, the EDL responded with fury, hurling bottles and coins at the counter demonstration. The racists were hustled out of the square by police a short while later, around 4pm.
The scenes in Bolton on Saturday underline the urgent need for the trade union, anti-racist and workers' movement to mobilise against the EDL and the fascist BNP. We cannot stand by and let EDL racist thugs intimidate Muslims and spread terror on our streets.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, said: "Anti-racists were buoyed by outnumbering and outlasting the EDL. But there was deep anger at the Greater Manchester Police's heavy-handed, confrontational and violent treatment of the anti-fascist protest. On several occasions, large snatch squad of police battered their way into peaceful protesters in order to arrest anti-racists. I was one of those arrested.
"The GMP's disgraceful behaviour is the culmination of several weeks of attempts to undermine the anti-racist protest. Muslims and Asians in particular were effectively ordered by police to stay away. In contrast the police made no public criticism of the EDL's anti-Muslim rally. Nor did they make any attempt to dissuade people from joining the EDL protest.
"I believe these double standards reflect deep seated institutional racism in the GMP. We urgently need an inquiry into the methods used by police to harass and undermine a legal and democratic anti-racist protest."
Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of UAF, said: "The events in Bolton could have been avoided if the EDL were not given permission to demonstrate. The EDL is a fascist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, racist and homophobic organisation. Video footage on YouTube shows the EDL rioting in Stoke-on-Trent earlier this year. They physically attacked Asians, Muslims and other communities – and even the police.
"The police's primary role is to ensure safety and public order. It is not in the public interest to allow EDL 'demonstrations' to proceed. These so-called demonstrations should be banned."
After the EDL rally and UAF counter-protest, during which riot police relentlessly attacked non-violent antifascists, while allowing EDL activists considerable space to roam through the streets and in and out of pubs, it emerges that EDL supporters attacked and stabbed a man. The EDL had been aggressively harrassing pub goers, and jumped on a man who asked them to leave. His friend intervened, and he was beaten up and stabbed. The police are quoted as saying: "We need to identify these men and lock them up so they cannot hurt anyone else." But it was the police who gave them the opportunity to go out looking for violence, knowing exactly what kind of people they were defending. It was the police who beat and set dogs on antifascists to ensure that the EDL could have this outing. It was the police who struck an 89 year old antifascist and veteran of WWII. And it was the police who fed smears to the media to justify this conduct. They behaved this way despite the overwhelming opposition of the local community, the council, local businesses, even the bloody cabbies who were leafletting against the EDL. They did this despite the fact that the EDL have a known propensity for attacking innocent people when they are given the chance to, and despite the fact that the antifascists were engaged in a legal, non-violent protest. Lesson one for anti-fascists, then: don't depend on the police to contain the racists and fascists.
Violence at anti-mosque protest Violent clashes broke out on Saturday between riot police and right-wing thugs.
3rd April 2010
About 2,000 members of the English Defence League (EDL) descended on Dudley town centre in the West Midlands to demonstrate against plans for a new mosque.
Some of the protesters broke out of a pen in a car park, breaking down metal fences and throwing the metal brackets at officers, who were armed with riot shields and batons. Members of the demonstration started fighting their own stewards who were trying to calm them down as they attacked the fences penning them in.
The EDL had put signs up which read "Labour forcing mosques on Britain" and "No one wants this mosque". Some demonstrators held placards reading "Muslim bombers off our streets" and "Say no to the mosque". The national anthem was played on a speaker system while demonstrators waved the flag of St George.
Dudley Council said in a statement on its website: "We didn't invite the EDL to our town and we don't want them here." But the council said it did not have the power to ban the event. It said: "The council has worked closely with the police to do all it can to protect and support local people, traders, businesses and the town centre. The EDL is proposing a static protest (rather than a march) and there is no legal requirement for an organiser of such a protest to notify the police or the council of their definite plans."
The mosque is planned for Hall Street with details on the design and positioning of the building due for submission by July 2011. In July last year the council lost a high court challenge to prevent the planning application being given the go ahead.
The EDL protesters managed to break out of the car park by pulling down fences and barging their way past riot police officers. About half the group then ran off through the town. Lines of riot police officers fought running battles with protesters as they tried to contain the mob who pulled down barriers blocking off roads.
Hopefully there's some video of them being battered by cops - but cops tend to prefer to go for small women brandishing orange juice...
This is from a local newspaper in Dudley - and they invoke wartime ideas of 'storming the fences'? If you don't have a licence to march then you aren't, legally, allowed to have anything more than a static protest. Admittedly, I've broken a few cordons in my time, but at no point was my intention to cause harm or grief to anything more than someone's perception - and it didn't involve having a few hundred bigoted football hooligans behind me either...
Ben Anderson gets exclusive access to the English Defence League, the movement set up to protest against what it sees as the dangerous spread of militant Islam in Britain. But with their demonstrations often descending into serious violence, he asks what is motivating more and more young men to join up.
English Defence League: Inside the violent world of Britain's new far right Undercover Guardian investigation reveals plan by English Defence League to hit racially sensitive areas in attempt to provoke disorder over summer
28 May 2010
MPs expressed concern tonight after it emerged that far-right activists are planning to step up their provocative street campaign by targeting some of the UK's highest-profile Muslim communities, raising fears of widespread unrest this summer. Undercover footage shot by the Guardian reveals the English Defence League, which has staged a number of violent protests in towns and cities across the country this year, is planning to "hit" Bradford and the London borough of Tower Hamlets as it intensifies its street protests.
Senior figures in the coalition government were briefed on the threat posed by EDL marches this week. Tomorrow up to 2,000 EDL supporters are expected to descend on Newcastle for its latest protest. MPs said the group's decision to target some of the UK's most prominent Muslim communities was a blatant attempt to provoke mayhem and disorder. "This group has no positive agenda," said the Bradford South MP, Gerry Sutcliffe. "It is an agenda of hate that is designed to divide people and communities. We support legitimate protest but this is not legitimate, it is designed to stir up trouble. The people of Bradford will want no part of it."
The English Defence League, which started in Luton last year, has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. A Guardian investigation has identified a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement ďż˝ from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups. Thousands of people have attended its protests ďż˝ many of which have descended into violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting. Supporters are split into "divisions" spread across the UK and as many as 3,000 people are attracted to its protests.
The group also appears to be drawing support from the armed forces. Its online armed forces division has 842 members and the EDL says many serving soldiers have attended its demonstrations. A spokeswoman for the EDL, whose husband is a serving soldier, said: "The soldiers are fighting Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq and the EDL are fighting it here ďż˝ Not all the armed forces support the English Defence League but a majority do."
Following the British National party's poor showing in this month's local and national elections anti-racist campaigners say some far-right activists may be turning away from the ballot box and returning to violent street demonstrations for the first time in three decades. Nick Lowles, from Searchlight, said: "What we are seeing now is the most serious, most dangerous, political phenomenon that we have had in Britain for a number of years. With EDL protests that are growing week in, week out there is a chance for major disorder and a major political shift to the right in this country."
In undercover footage shot by Guardian Films, EDL spokesman Guramit Singh says its Bradford demonstration "will be huge". He adds: "The problem with Bradford is the security threat, it is a highly populated Muslim area. They are very militant as well. Bradford is a place that has got to be hit." Singh, who was speaking during an EDL demonstration in Dudley in April, said the organisation would also be targeting Tower Hamlets. A spokesman for the EDL confirmed it would hold a demonstration in Bradford on 28 August because the city was "on course to be one of the first places to become a no-go area for non-Muslims". The EDL has already announced demonstrations in Cardiff and Dudley.
The former Home Office minister Phil Woolas said: "This is a deliberate attempt by the EDL at division and provocation, to try and push young Muslims into the hands of extremists, in order to perpetuate the divide. It is dangerous." The EDL claims it is a peaceful and non-racist organisation only concerned with protesting against "militant Islam". However, over the last four months the Guardian has attended its demonstrations and witnessed racism, violence and virulent Islamophobia.
During the election campaign David Cameron described the EDL as "dreadful people" and said the organisation would "always be under review". A spokesman for the Home Office said that although the government was committed to restoring the right to "non-violent protest ďż˝ violence and intimidation are wholly unacceptable and the police have powers to deal with individuals who commit such acts. The government condemns those who seek to spread hatred." He added: "Individual members of EDL ďż˝ like all members of the public ďż˝ are of course subject to the law, and all suspected criminal offences will be robustly investigated and dealt with by the police."
Tower Hamlets, London. Organised by United East End, thousands of people march against the racist, anti-muslim English Defence League. People of all faiths and none, black and white, gay and straight sent a clear message that any attempt by the violent thugs of the EDL to march on the streets of east London will be met by the mobilisation of the whole community.
Racist EDL brings violence to Dudley
17 July 2010
Dudleyďż˝s worst fears were realised when hordes of English Defence League (EDL) supporters descended on the West Midlands town on Saturday 17 July. The EDLďż˝s invasion of Dudley has again exposed the organisation ďż˝ which has links to the British National Party and other fascist groups ďż˝ as deeply racist and violent.
The EDLďż˝s return visit to Dudley was part of its plans to bring anti-Muslim racism and hatred to multiracial, multicultural towns and cities over the summer. But despite calling a national mobilisation, the EDL only managed to attract some 500 of its hard core supporters to Dudley. They were heard chanting offensive anti-Muslim slogans. The EDL rally quickly descended into an orgy of violence (see video) ďż˝ despite the EDLďż˝s promises that its event would be ďż˝peacefulďż˝. EDL supporters attacked local shops, smashed car windows and threatened locals as they rampaged through town following the end of their ďż˝eventďż˝. Police are investigating damage to a Hindu temple.
In contrast half a mile away a peaceful event celebrating ďż˝One community, many culturesďż˝ attracted some 350 local people of different faiths and backgrounds. The One Community rally, supported by Dudley Unite Against Fascism, local trade unions, councillors and the townďż˝s interfaith forum heard how the EDL were a threat to all the people of Dudley. Antiracists joined with local Muslims to stand vigil over Dudley Mosque â€• which has been under constant threat from EDL mobs.
Rose Cragg, from West Midlands Unite Against Fascism, is calling for an inquiry into the EDL violence. She said: "The people of Dudley have said again and again that they do not want the racist thugs of the EDL here. Their visits always end in disruption and violence. We want to know how this could have happened and we pledge to do all we can to make sure it is never repeated.
In a statement, Dudley Council leader Anne Millward said: "We are extremely saddened that Dudley has again been targeted by the English Defence League. Yet again this group of outside extremists have shown they are incapable of demonstrating peacefully and have brought public disorder and violence to our town. While the number of EDL protesters was significantly fewer than their protest in April, those that did come appeared to be intent on causing trouble. I hope the drop in numbers from around 1,500 to less than 500 is a result of more people seeing the EDL for what they are and recognising that they have no place in Dudley and make no positive contribution to local issues.
EDL trash houses and Asian businesses as they go on the rampage in Dudley
At least a couple of dozen houses, cars and local small businesses in Dudley town centre were yesterday attacked by demonstrators from the anti-Islamic English Defence League (EDL). Around two hundred EDL broke their way out of police cordons to carry out a frenzied attack on whatever was at hand. Asian businesses were no doubt a focus - a Balti restaurant was clearly singled out, as was a taxi. But the white working class population of Dudley also came under attack, including a white woman with a baby, who narrowly missed a brick that had smashed through her window.
Residents called urgently for police assistance and help in protecting their homes from further attack, but none came. Police just a few streets away, sauntering back from some sort of confrontation with the EDL, showed no interest in helping frightened residents. NPOIU cop Paul Mather, who was with them, was more concerned with crowing that Fitwatch had ‘missed the action’.
EDL members arrested over Bournemouth mosque bomb plot fears 27th July 2010
By Jim Durkin
ARMED police opened fire during an operation to arrest members of the controversial far-right English Defence League, who were feared to be masterminding an attack at a Bournemouth mosque. Marksmen shot the tyres out on a van belonging to John Broomfield, who describes himself as Dorset EDL head, as he drove alone through Corfe Castle. He and six others were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause an explosion at a Bournemouth mosque. All seven, including at least six EDL members, have since been released without charge.
Armed officers pounced from an unmarked car close to the Norden roundabout as 27-year-old Mr Broomfield, from Swanage, drove home from work around 5pm. They used special rapid tyre deflation rounds, fired from a shotgun, to disable his vehicle. Officers, including specialised forensic experts, then swooped on his Bell Street home, removing clothes, computer equipment, mobile phones and passports. The suspects were held at Poole police station and a police station in Southampton, following last Thursdayâ€™s arrests.
The English Defence League is a contentious group that has been leading â€śanti-Muslim extremismâ€ť demonstrations around England since 2009. Thousands of people have attended its protests â€“ many of which have involved racist and Islamophobic chanting. However, organisers insist it is not a racist organisation. A number of violent clashes have also taken place at EDL demonstrations since the group first emerged in Luton last year.
In a statement to the Daily Echo, Mr Broomfield said: â€śWhile travelling home from work I was stopped and arrested by armed police. I was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause an explosion at a Bournemouth mosque. Five other members of the EDL were also arrested and held for 24 hours for questioning while searches of their homes took place. Then all of us were released without charge. There has been no conspiracy. There has never been any conspiracy. The EDL is not a terrorist organisation.â€ť
A spokesman for Dorset Police said: â€śDorset Police can confirm that as part of an investigation surrounding threats to a Bournemouth mosque a total of seven people were arrested for conspiracy to cause an explosion. â€śFollowing an investigation police can now confirm these people have been released without charge. We can also confirm that one of the people arrested was detained safely by armed officers in the Corfe Castle area. Weâ€™ve been working very closely with the Muslim community since last Thursday and our local safer neighbourhood teams have been providing advice and reassurance throughout. At this stage there is no indication whatsoever that any of the mosques in Dorset are under threat of attack.â€ť
Mongolian neo-Nazis: Anti-Chinese sentiment fuels rise of ultra-nationalism Alarm sounds over rise of extreme groups such as Tsagaan Khass who respect Hitler and reject foreign influence
2 August 2010
Their right hands rise to black-clad chests and flash out in salute to their nation: "Sieg heil!" They praise Hitler's devotion to ethnic purity. But with their high cheekbones, dark eyes and brown skin, they are hardly the Third Reich's Aryan ideal. A new strain of Nazism has found an unlikely home: Mongolia.
Once again, ultra-nationalists have emerged from an impoverished economy and turned upon outsiders. This time the main targets come from China, the rising power to the south. Groups such as Tsagaan Khass, or White Swastika, portray themselves as patriots standing up for ordinary citizens in the face of foreign crime, rampant inequality, political indifference and corruption. But critics say they scapegoat and attack the innocent. The US state department has warned travellers of increased assaults on inter-racial couples in recent years – including organised violence by ultra-nationalist groups.
Dayar Mongol threatened to shave the heads of women who sleep with Chinese men. Three years ago, the leader of Blue Mongol was convicted of murdering his daughter's boyfriend, reportedly because the young man had studied in China.
Though Tsagaan Khass leaders say they do not support violence, they are self-proclaimed Nazis. "Adolf Hitler was someone we respect. He taught us how to preserve national identity," said the 41-year-old co-founder, who calls himself Big Brother. "We don't agree with his extremism and starting the second world war. We are against all those killings, but we support his ideology. We support nationalism rather than fascism."
It is, by any standards, an extraordinary choice. Under Hitler, Soviet prisoners of war who appeared Mongolian were singled out for execution. More recently, far-right groups in Europe have attacked Mongolian migrants. Not all ultra-nationalists use this iconography; and widespread ignorance about the Holocaust and other atrocities may help to explain why some do.
Tsagaan Khass points out that the swastika is an ancient Asian symbol – which is true, but does not explain the group's use of Nazi colours, the Nazi eagle and the Nazi salute; or the large picture of the Führer on Big Brother's cigarette case. Nor does it seem greatly relevant, given their unabashed admiration for Hitler's racial beliefs.
"We have to make sure that as a nation our blood is pure. That's about our independence," said 23-year-old Battur, pointing out that the population is under three million. "If we start mixing with Chinese, they will slowly swallow us up. Mongolian society is not very rich. Foreigners come with a lot of money and might start taking our women."
Big Brother acknowledges he discovered such ideas through the nationalist groups that emerged in Russia after the Soviet Union's fall; Mongolia had been a satellite state. But the anti-Chinese tinge is distinct and increasingly popular. "While most people feel far-right discourse is too extreme, there seems to be a consensus that China is imperialistic, 'evil' and intent on taking Mongolia," said Franck Billé of Cambridge University, who is researching representations of Chinese people in Mongolia.
Hip hop tracks such as Don't Go Too Far, You Chinks by 4 Züg – chorus: "shoot them all, all, all" – have been widely played in bars and clubs. Urban myths abound; some believe Beijing has a secret policy of encouraging men to have sex with Mongolian women. Yet Tsagaan Khass claims it welcomes law-abiding visitors of all races, and Big Brother can certainly be hospitable.
Enthusiastically shaking hands, he says: "Even though you are a British citizen, you are still Asian, and that makes you very cool." He says the younger members have taught him to be less extreme and the group appears to be reshaping itself – expelling "criminal elements" and insisting on a good education as a prerequisite for membership. One of the leaders is an interior designer.
But critics fear ultra-nationalists are simply becoming more sophisticated and, quietly, more powerful. Tsagaan Khass say it "works closely" with other organisations and is now discussing a merger. "Some people are in complete denial … [but] we can no longer deny this is a problem," said Anaraa Nyamdorj, of Mongolia's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre.
The US state department has noted increased reports of xenophobic attacks since the spring. The UN country review cites a recent vicious assault on three young transgender women. When one of the victims publicly blamed an ultra-nationalist group – not Tsagaan Khass – death threats quickly followed.
"They are getting more support from the public," added Enkhjargal Davaasuren, director of the National Centre Against Violence, who fears that ultra-nationalists are growing more confident and victims too scared to come forward. She pointed to a YouTube video posted last year, showing a man roughly shaving a woman's long hair. The victim's face is buried in her hands, but her hunched body reeks of fear. Others in Ulan Bator suggest the movement is waning and suspect the groups' menacing stance and claims of 3,000 members are bluster. Billé thinks there is "a lot of posturing".
"We have heard of instances [of violence]. They are not necessarily all right or all wrong," said Javkhlan, a Tsagaan Khass leader. But the group is simply a "law enforcement" body, he maintained: "We do checks; we go to hotels and restaurants to make sure Mongolian girls don't do prostitution and foreigners don't break the laws. We don't go through and beat the shit out of everyone. We check our information and make sure it's true."
They rely on police and media pressure to reform such businesses, he added. And if that failed? "We try to avoid using power," he said. "That would be our very last resort."
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