Tuesday, 23 July 2013

And what point was made exactly?


From Vice by By Simon Childs, Photos: Lee Harper:

You might have thought that the English Defence League had already sufficiently exploited Lee Rigby's murder for their own Islamophobic ends. But Tommy Robinson and his merry band of blinkered patriots have never been too bothered with decency, preferring instead to make Rigby a martyr in their fight against every Muslim man, woman and child currently raping and murdering their way through the UK.

On Saturday, a bunch of EDL trekked up to Birmingham to continue dancing on Rigby's grave. I went along to see if their dancing was as awkward and ungainly as it usually is.

EDL leader Tommy Robinson being escorted by security goons.

I arrived to find the EDL pouring out of a nightclub, spilling beer everywhere. This was presumably to the chagrin of the English Disco Lovers, a group that protests against the EDL by subverting their acronym and sending up their macho aggression by blasting the Village People at them.

Here, the vision of a genuine EDL disco was realised, and – shockingly – it wasn’t particularly pretty. In many ways it was probably familiar territory for the club, which looked like a regular stomping ground for any stag night making its way through Birmingham city centre. Only instead of groaning the lyrics to "Get Lucky" at anything resembling a skirt, this baying troop of Becks-fuelled bruisers were shouting, "Allah! Allah! Who the fuck is Allah?" at a group of Muslims milling about on the other side of the road. Judging by their response, it's likely that only one of those songs will ever be regarded as the feel good hit of any summer.

Someone also hurled a beer can at the assembled group of observers, prompting a round of, "Stick your fucking Islam up your arse!" The can missed its target and the EDL members were escorted away from the area by the police.

As you'd expect at an event staged by a large number of drunken bigots, the police presence was heavy. The EDL had been prevented from holding a proper march and instead allowed a static demonstration in a square located about 100 metres down the road from the club. Which was convenient, because – as is the case at any legitimate political rally – the location of the pre-lash venue dictates some very important details, like how many traveller tinnies you need to buy to keep you topped up for the walk.

On the way, a small number of people carrying Unite Against Fascism (UAF) banners managed to get within jeering distance and the usual insults were thrown. One EDL guy was also excitedly shouting "UAF UFO!", prompting sideways looks from antifa, his fellow racists, the police, myself, the other amassed journalists, passing children, passing dogs and anyone else who lacks the brainpower to make the link between opposing fascism and life on other planets.

Overall, the anti-fascist response was pretty muted, so the EDL decided to brawl with the police instead. This caped crusader slurred his anger at the cops like a race-hate superhero – Koranic verses his kryptonite, Stella pint cans and a rudimentary understanding of Islam his fighting fuel.

Upon entering the square, half of the crowd walked towards the stage, where the leadership were about to make their speeches. The other half rampaged towards the line of police and started larging it up while trying to push past the police line for no discernible reason, other than the fact that they love a bloody good dust up.

The police brought out the dogs in response, then the EDL started throwing missiles in the form of plastic cups of lager. The problem with them, though, is that they do absolutely no harm to your enemies, often while making you some new ones as you cover everyone around you in sticky Carling. A few people realised this and started to throw glass bottles or bricks instead.

What with the cops having truncheons and shields and combat training, a lot of the EDL members ended up battered and bleeding – like this gentleman, for example.

He wasn't happy.

When all the shouting and bottle throwing had died down a little, EDL leaders started to make their speeches. I didn’t hear them because I was on the other side of the square watching a large number of people who'd decided to keep confronting the cops. I also spent a large amount of that time being told to fuck off for being a journalist.

Those who were willing to have a chat with me seemed pretty confused. A 47-year-old solicitor called “Viking” told me that he objected to the fact that Kingsmill bread is halal; he was convinced that, as a Christian, this meant that he couldn’t eat it.

Another man told me, "I'm not racist, but I hate Muslims – horrible."

Simon, 30, a tanker driver, told me he came to express his concern about "what’s going on with Islam, terrorism and that kind of stuff”. I asked him whether a particular event had coloured his opinion on Islam, and he said, “Obviously 9/11 and that, but it’s getting closer to home now – stuff going on in Tipton, Wolverhampton, Walsall, the London bombings.”

I pointed out that Tipton, Wolverhampton and Walsall were examples of mosques being attacked. He said, “Terrorism is terrorism – it doesn’t matter which side it’s coming from,” while attending a demo specifically and aggressively targeting one side.

The rally was soon over and the EDL were marched back to the nightclub, where they boarded their minibuses and drove off their separate ways.

A total of 20 arrests were made and three people were charged – one with violent disorder and two with possession of offensive weapons. Overall the EDL turnout was pretty high, coming in at around 2,000.

So I guess their resurgence following Lee Rigby's murder isn’t quite the flash in the pan I'd been hoping for. That said, the EDL are still far from a coherent organisation, and the only thing they seem capable of doing is organising these pointless, heavily policed street brawls that ultimately go absolutely nowhere. The scary thing is that people are still turning up to them.

Follow Simon (@SimonChilds13) and Lee (@LeeHarperPics) on Twitter.

More stories about the EDL:

Is the EDL's New Resident Poet Too Shit to Be Real?

The EDL and Anti-Fascists Fought Over Lee Rigby's Memory in Manchester

Moronic English Fascists Marched On Parliament in London

I Watched the EDL Bring Chaos to Newcastle

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