Wednesday, 2 September 2009

People power forces hooligan ban

From HOPE not hate, by Nick Lowles:

An attempted protest by rightwing football hooligans, BNP supporters and other Islamophobes in Luton has been banned by the Home Secretary after an online campaign initiated by HOPE not hate.

The English Defence League had hoped to rally in the town on 19 September to coincide with a Luton home game against York City. The last time the EDL organised a march, violence followed. There were 35 arrests as hooligans and racists rampaged through a predominately Muslim area of the town.

With that area being very close to Luton’s football ground, further violence was likely.

The HOPE not hate campaign sent out an email calling on its supporters to write to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, and Gillian Parker, the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, asking for the rightwing event to be banned. A simple link allowed our supporters to dispatch emails to the pair.

Within five minutes of our call, over 1,000 letters had been sent. Within an hour this had increased to 5,000. By the end of the day our supporters had sent over 12,500 letters.

The email campaign took hold, especially in Luton itself. Over 5,000 invitations to join the campaign were sent out by our existing supporters and a third responded by sending on letters themselves.

It was a phenomenal success. Just over 40,000 of our supporters opened the email and in the end almost 15,000 actions were taken. On the back of its success, over £1,500 was raised to help us fight key council by-elections over the coming months.

By the evening we had learnt that the Home Office not only had banned the EDL march but had ordered no political demonstrations or rallies in the town for three months. It turned out that the local council and police were also not keen on the EDL protest for fear of violence.

The online campaign was a victory for the people of Luton and for common sense. Allowing extremists hell bent on confrontation to be allowed to whip up hatred and violence has no place in a democratic society.

It also sends out a clear message to the hooligans and rightwing extremists that their actions will not be tolerated. This time it was Luton, but we will act swiftly to prevent them taking their hate to other towns if needed.

The victory is also a further demonstration of the power of our online campaigning. That thousands of people will respond to a call within minutes shows what is possible when we get motivated and organised.

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