October 31, 2009

EDL: Early Departure from Leeds

Image of EDL thugs in Leeds today taken from Indymedia
Back into the vicinity of a computer from the anti-EDL march in Leeds city centre, here's a dogs eye view of the turns of the day so far.

Arriving at about 9:30am into Leeds train station, the streets were notably clear already of anyone but worried looking police and disinterested shoppers. A low line of fencing surrounded city square, where statues were covered up with green tarpaulin and the distictly premature christmas tree that had been there a few days previously had disappeared. Electronic signs and loudspeaker systems were being erected around the square, which was to be the location of the EDL "against muslim extremism" (but of course not racist at all should the shaven headed hordes be believed). Ironically, this location had apparantly been chosen by the EDL as there is a giant statue of a knight on a horse there, who they believed to be St George, but is in fact a statue of "The Black Prince".

A TV van outside the church opposite was having it's doors tested by a couple of policemen seemingly looking for something to do, whilst a policewoman nearby was saying that she hoped noone would show up.

The EDL in Leeds with informant Tony White on the extreme left for a change
Leaving the area for a bit to get some flyers for the Northern Indymedia reporting number photocopied, disturbingly few outside of the area around the station were even aware of what was planned that day. A worker at a coffee shop nearby had heard however and asked if we were planning to attend. They wished the anti EDL demonstrators luck and a free coffee on the house should they return thirsty.

After an hour or so of handing out flyers to various friends and groups who were making their way in ever greater numbers to the city centre, we headed towards the library where various antifascist groups and anti racism campaigners were planning to meet. Again, there was a cordon around the "designated protest zone" and an even heavier police presence at this location. By the time we arrived at about 11.15am, there were very few people, those that were there mainly comprising of UAF stewards in their high visibilty jackets and several people trying to sell a certain newspaper to anyone who showed more than a passing interest in the activity going on.

The police at the entrance to the cordon were struggling to install a metal detector, of the type used at airports and football matches. "I think the batteries about to die Sarge" One policeman was heard shouting across the road. Later in the day, with the protest in full swing, there was still a couple of policemen struggling to make it work, by which point hundreds of people had already passed.

We took some pictures of the line of around 6 police vans and the "battle of the metal detector", and left the cordon to go back down Park Row to see if there was a similar presence at that end of the street. 10 yards down the street however, we were stopped by a police medic who asked what my name was.

"I'm not so sure I want to tell you that" was my first response to this question, unwilling to comply with any attempts to draw me into casual conversation.

"Look, if you're not going to tell me your name, I'm going to arrest you and we can get your name at the station" came the not so friendly reply.

What a surprise - nazi salutes from the EDL
"Surely I'm not required to tell you that" I responded, to which I was told that a blanket section 60 had been placed over the whole of Leeds, authorised by Chief Supt Milson of West Yorkshire Police. This meant, I was told, that they had the power to detain and search me if I was acting in any way suspiciously. When I asked what my suspicious behaviour was, I was told that it was due to me taking photographs of the police.

My efforts to explain that I was covering a major event to contribute to Indymedia, and that it was perfectly natural to be taking pictures when confronted with hundreds of police, a line of police vans and an airport style stop and search area, seemingly carried very little weight. A tense few moments led to a FIT cameraman with a video camera worthy of Universal studios was beckoned to within 3 feet of me to capture the remaining exchange.

As my bag was emptied of the spare socks, bourbons and computer equipment it contained in front of me, a stop and search slip was written out giving the reason "Sec 60 stop. Seen taking photos of police equipment" Of particular note to myself was when I was asked

"Are you a Gypsy or Traveller?"

At first assuming this was some stunning deductive guesswork from the medic, I was surprised to discover that this question actually has it's own y/n box on the form (with an absence of any other similar question on the form, other than the standard "Self Defined Ethnicity Classification" box to which a code was also entered. When I objected to this, and pointed out that it's a fairly offensive thing to include, I was told to bring it up with the home office.

A bunch of EDL supporters with a familiar face popping up?
Finally satisfied with the camerawork of his colleague, the medic turned back into my "Best friend" and helpfully informed me that I wasn't a terrorist after all, with the words:

"If you'd have just given us your name and address when we asked, we wouldn't have had to search you would we as you wouldn't have seemed suspicious", (which is a strange logic when I was stopped for 'acting suspiciously' even before they had chance), before admitting that section 60 is controversial. "It's not very popular, but it works".

Moving down to city square, people were getting ready for the arrival of the fash. The air was noticibly more tense as the police began to grow in numbers and cameras were unloaded from an unmarked BBC van with a satellite dish on the roof. We asked what they were hoping to film, to which they replied they probably wouldn't be broadcasting any coverage unless fighting broke out, and that they were there "just in case". Groups of Antifa activists, clearly and respectably unwilling to be penned in to the "official protest areas" milled about the nearby streets.

Heading back to the library, the numbers were beginning to swell and speakers tried to address the crowd from the steps. A police electronic billboard that had been erected circled in the background with the words "face coverings must not be worn".

A sudden surge of police to block off the Headrow marked the arrival of a few hundred marchers with anarchist flags, seemingly from the Woodhose area of Leeds, being kettled into formation by several rows of police. Scuffles broke out as people tried to break through the lines towards the EDL pen by the station. At least one person was seperated from the crowd and arrested, and police struggled as a flare was lit and the crowd surged forwards, before eventually being pushed back into the barriers at the library.

Once things had calmed down a little, we headed back down Park Row to await the arrival of the EDL from the station. Wheras the Library end of the street was heavily policed, there were noticably fewer at the City Square end at this time. Eventually, a rush of police horses to the station and the distant chanting of "In-ger-land" and other football terrace chants marked the arrival of the fascists, to be held near the bus stops until the police cleared the streets.

Antifascists lined the barriers outside the church, waved flags and shouted "Nazis!", only to be seperated off and silenced by the police who allowed the racist chanting on the other side of the road to continue. A mass of shaven headed people in football shirts stood amongst the antifascists on the side of the road, jeering and shouting support for the EDL, but soon backed off when confonted. Eventually, the EDL, numbering about 150, were penned in city square where they waved st Georges flags and chanted anti muslim slogans, bouncing up and down on the spot as they did so.

And so began the next few hours of the police battling to keep the two groups apart. Whilst the EDL seemed quite happy to drink lager and shout slurred, racist chants, many attempts were made by the anarchist antifascists to break out of the Library pen in numbers, only to be pushed back by both the police and the UAF stewards who were shouting over the megaphone "We have to stay and defend the library". Who they were intending to defend it from is anybody's guess as the fascists were quite happily swaying down the road. Occasionally, a small group of fascists would attempt to make their way to the library, only to be chased down by Antifa activists and spirited away back to their pen by the police to chants of "Police protect the fascists".

The police say 'no masks', yet many of the EDL are masked up
Eventually, at about 3pm, the police surged into city square in large numbers and riot gear and began to push bystanders back to create an area of clear roads around city square. Whilst many hoped that they were finally going to deal with the racist chanting, 2 coaches arrived and the EDL dutifully got on board, leaving the square strewn with beer cans. Antifascists tried to get through, but instead dispersed in small groups to track down groups of skinheads who had slipped away to nearby pubs, most notably Yates's wine bar which had an EDL flag hung up in the window.

Back at the library, groups of frustrated demonstrators attempted to leave the pen chanting "We want to march!", only to be pushed back by a combination of the police and the UAF stewards, still seemingly trying to rally people to "defend the library", despite the fact that the EDL were now sat on 2 coaches and without the stomach to even try. This seemed to be causing tension, and the police were stopping any groups from leaving the pen. A group which had got through, reformed and attempted to break through on Infirmary street were pushed back into the pen by police with batons.

With crowds dispersing, batteries dead and the main throng of fascists gone, we boarded a train and headed back to Bradford, the main impression of the day left in me being that the police seemed to have gone to extraordinary lengths to silence the antifascists, whilst giving the EDL centre stage. Looking at the "Gypsy/Traveller - y/n" section of my yellow slip, I tried to imagine why.

Jim Dog
Northern Indymedia

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Outside the Northern Monkey pub on the headrow, three shaven-headed neo-Nazis were making Hitler salutes.

Anonymous said...

ASking people at anti-racist demos if they are Roma travellers is extremely offensive, and this issue MUST be raised by campaigners with the government ASAP!

Singling out one ethnic group is most clearly racial harassment.

Antifascist said...

'Outside the Northern Monkey pub on the headrow, three shaven-headed neo-Nazis were making Hitler salutes.'

A photo of this would be useful.

Anonymous said...

Excellent investigative writing - would be great to invite this independent journalist as a contributor to this blog!

Anonymous said...

My experience was rather depressing. I moved back and forth between the two demos (it helps to be white and non-Roma in appearance!) with a couple of mates. To be honest I can't be doing with the UAF mode of protest, however well intentioned. Screeching slogans into a loudhailer while several hundred fascists hold a rally in one of the city's principal squares a few hundred yards away isn't my idea of anti-fascist activism.

At one point we hooked up with about 200 antifa and tried to charge towards the EDL demo via Park Place but got blocked by the police. Later me and my mates slipped through. What we saw wasn't pretty: about 500 in the official rally area and several hundred more milling around the vicinity and surrounding streets.

There were thugs, pure and simple. They looked like extras from a film about football hooligans are ranged from spotty young louts to shaven-headed monsters in their 30s and 40s. I'm very glad the antifa didn't get through because we would have had no chance in a fight with people who obviously regard aggression as a defaut setting.

Unlike previous anti-fascist protests I've attended the lines between nazis and bystanders was blurred. Groups of older men standing outside pubs could have been EDL or just Leeds fans waiting to go the game. What is certain is that only a very heavy (and heavy-handed) police presence stopped the EDL going on a major rampage.

Even after the demo was over, groups of them were strutting around the Boar Lane area with no fear of being attacked. Anti-fascists need to review tactics because the EDL is a new kind of threat. They held a rally in City Square and no one stopped them which means they will be buoyed up and cocky. If they are not beaten soon then events may move beyond our control altogether.

Anonymous said...

The EDL is defo goverment backed ,for what purpose i dont know,but i have study lots of pix and videos. Some of those people in the crowds are special forces,i had this confirmed by friends in that same job.

A.J said...

Above said is VERY true. I was there and the EDL were from like a movie "football factory" there were thugs determined for a fight. If it wasnt for the police UAF would have got destroyed. UAF was full of kids and anarcists.. there wernt any Thugs or gangs of black and asians there were 14 15 years old asian kids just standing in the library with police protection.. there wernt up for a fight. UAF need to change there protest ways because in the next protests EDL will escape there cordon and get to them but that all depends on the town of the demonsration. In Leeds no Anti Facists really turned up ready to take EDL on.. There just stayed away from Leeds town whereas in Bradford there will have a full scale riot goin on.

Anonymous said...

EDL : Nazi salutes .. Leeds 31st oct 2009

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3596/4061657514_edbe172c32.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2428/4061661796_614d664df1.jpg

Antifascist said...

'EDL : Nazi salutes .. Leeds 31st oct 2009'

Excellent. A big thank you to all readers who have supplied images. :-)

Jace said...

What an excellent and active community you have going on here LU. Well done everyone and fuck the fash!

Workingman said...

Images currently unavailable :( One EDL (herts division)on twitter is claiming they kicked combat18s butt when C18 jumped em. Confused nazi is beating up his own allies??!!

Anonymous said...

Boneheaded fooligans

Anonymous said...

"Anti-fascists need to review tactics because the EDL is a new kind of threat."

I disagree. I think the EDL is business as normal and the tactics of the BNP since 94 have been unusual. The EDL have echos of the NF tactics of the 70's and 80's and Combat 18 of the 90's.

Shay said...

Apologies for going off topic but I just found out that Ross Kemp is being lined up to stand for The Labour Party against Griffin in Essex. Wow

Anonymous said...

You are way off the mark when you say: "I think the EDL is business as normal....The EDL have echos of the NF tactics of the 70's and 80's and Combat 18 of the 90's."

I'll tell what's different. C18 and similar far right groups attracted a hard core of thuggish nazis, at most a few dozen for any given event. The EDL can now turn out hundreds, including groups of mates who come along from different estates, towns and football clubs across the north and midlands. They are not nazis (although they are being led and manipulated by nazis) and for every idiot who turns up there are a hundred more idiots who could be persuaded to do so. If we had another 7/7 god knows how many thousand they'd get.

I think this is building to a major EDL action, perhaps in Bradford where the local Muslim youth is bound to react and a massive riot will ensue.

Joe Chapman said...

I think treating the EDL as if they are the NF in the 70s and 80s is a mistake.

I actually think that the EDL, whoever is behind them, wants anti-fascists to treat them like the NF in order make anti-fascists look out of touch.

The EDL is using a disclaimer so that it looks non-racist bu at the same time it put out just the right amount of disguised intolerent rhetoric so that its uncontrollable supporters do what is expected of them without the EDL being branded as blatently fascist. This could make the EDL look like they are simply concerned about Islamic extremism and make people think that this time anti-fascists are wrong.

Sorry to say this but I think a few photos showing 1 or 2 people in a crowd doing what look like Hitler salutes is not conclusive proof that The EDL are neo-Nazis, I think it is quite perceivable that there are several groups using these demos as an opportunity to hijack it for their own cause or show the EDL up.

I am not suggesting that the EDL are innocent but I just think that I haven't personally seen enough evidence to conclusively determine what sort of animal the EDL is or even who are the real EDL and who belong to other groups latching on to them.

Also it continually bothers me that people keep trying to do things as if this is the 1970s and 1980s, it is not, times have changed, the ideology may be the same with these people but the methodology I think is different, it's disguised, it's more psychological, about perception in the eyes of the public and potential supporters these days than a straight forward group of thugs marching in the streets. Or maybe I'm missing something, I'd love all of this to be straightforward but I don't see any evidence that it is.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for going off topic but I just found out that Ross Kemp is being lined up to stand for The Labour Party against Griffin in Essex. Wow

Big mistake. Gi££in would be largely ignored (he doesn't even live near the constituency) otherwise but Kemp will bring a media circus with him and focus on a 'battle of the giants'. Labour won't win back anyone but might make people choose sides - not sure Kemp will be their obvious choice ala Afghan war and all that

Anonymous said...

I think Joe Chapman is quite close to the truth here. I also see no evidence that the EDL are fascists, not saying they are all angels either! Just that I am beginning to think that us continually trying to brand them nazis might end up backfiring bigtime.
It makes us look like we have only one line of thinking, there is too much blatant propaganda also. Football hooligans wave their arms about as they chant, the public knows this. Us continually taking stills and claiming they are Nazi salutes are becoming obvious lies and could end up making us look rabid.
There ARE nazi groups riding their coat tails, but the more I see of the EDL the more I think that they are being ridden by these groups rather than BEING one themselves.
I have read a lot of our comments on the EDL, one that keeps cropping up is that they are football hooligans. This poses a problem in my mind as by and large the hooligan firms are known for being inclusive and NOT racist. It is one or the other, we cannot have it both ways.
Maybe it's time to look closely at what they actually stand for, rather than shouting loudly about what we think they stand for.

Anonymous said...

EDL in Leeds Nazi salutes & chanting "Adolf Hitler English"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITDiGINtc1w&feature=sub

Bilal said...

I totally agree that the EDL protest in Leeds wasnt just a group of neo-nazis and far right activists. They were a mix of kids, football hooligans and the hardcore racists. Their numbers were big due to the Leeds match and the immaturity of the youth that turned up. We need to think of a different strategy of confronting them.

growbagz said...

I disagree with Joe. A party of brutish street fighting hooligans and hardcore nazis who are not represented at the ballot box cannot be anything other than a fascist group.

If they are not challenged on the streets, like in their physical attacks on Muslim families worshing at a mosque in Luton, their thugs would literally run riot.

There's nothing slick and sophisticated by lager-swilling thick-as-pig-shit skinhead thugs.

The BNP are far more slick in terms of PR.

Yes, they might eventually turn to politics just like the National Front did, but just because their millionarre funder Alan Lake spins a web of lies and deceipt (like the BNP trolls only better organised) doesn't mean the EDL are anything more than a physical racist fighting force appealing to people who see little or no results from Griffin's ballot box experiment.

Kirklees Unity said...

Anonymous said...

Big mistake. Gri££in would be largely ignored (he doesn't even live near the constituency)

Sorry but I don't agree.

Maybe not but Thurrock is a hot bed for the BNP. They have one councillor now and have had one in the past and have a guaranteed voter base in the area.

Anonymous said...

"I'll tell what's different. C18 and similar far right groups attracted a hard core of thuggish nazis, at most a few dozen for any given event."

Then you weren't at Waterloo 1992 (I was), Bermondsey 1991 and the anti-Bloody Sunday counter-demos when the BNP, B&H and C18 turned out hundreds. The EDL seem to me to be just the same old far-right goon squad who have existed for decades. Ever heard the expression, "The more things change, the more they stay the same" ?

And I realise that it's tempting to get hung up on the nuances to what the EDL say but look at what they do. They have very, very few non-whites on their demos and spend the time shouting racist slogans and conforming to type. They really aren't a radical departure, however, the BNP strategy since 1994 is.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITDiGINtc1w&feature=sub


the chants are. No surrender to the taliban, and hands up if you're english. At what point is hitler mentioned?

Oh and calling the EDL "bonehead football hooligans" just proves how arrogant you all are. You all go on about class all the time, it's outdated so change your tune. Anyway there was more working class in the EDL than there was in the student filled UAF.

We're getting stronger every week, you lot don't understand that people have had enough of Islamic extremism. We don't care about fucking Hitler, he lost and we as a British nation won. Get over the fact that the EDL is a non-racist outfit. Most of the lads there had never heard of the UAF untill joining the EDL, now they see you all for what you are. Pathetic.

Workingman said...

One of the many problems i have with the edl is their apparent agression and their assumtions (much like the bnp)that any anti fash person is uaf. Whilst the opposing forces at edl demos might be uaf led, the remaining hundreds of thousands of anti edl are in no way connected. Just because we dont stand on the frontline doesnt mean we are not active in our plans to crush the roots of racism and the scum which feed upon its hatred.

Anonymous said...

''Oh and calling the EDL "bonehead football hooligans" just proves how arrogant you all are. You all go on about class all the time, it's outdated so change your tune. Anyway there was more working class in the EDL than there was in the student filled UAF''.



and here cometh the troll(s)........

who on lancaster unity has ever talked about 'class'?. Are you, perhaps, getting confused with one of the other forums you troll daily? ('rev left', 'indymedia' etc.... )(?)

One of the problems with anti fascism is that it is just that - 'anti fascism'. Divorced from politics as such, but committed to a 'broad coalition' opposed to 'racism and fascism'. This is a bug bear with many, but a fact nevertheless. To my mind, an increasingly painful one as well....

I have always known my own affiliations, but I have never been 'active' in any political 'scene' up to now. Since May, however, when I first paid attention to the European elections there has been nothing else on my mind. Luton, especially, was a turning point as well. You are making enemies, my friend, and not just the stereotypical 'UAF' ones either.


Wake up!

If I am representative of anything, then all of this is going to explode in ways totally seperate to the 'race riots' you are fixated on. Cream off your 'street army' from the bored kids on the estates across this country if you must. But don't think that your myopic tabloid-pandering is going to pass for politics of any calibre in a truly 'progressive' sense.

stooges, scabs, internet-dwelling obsessives like yourself are part of the problem never the solution as you would love to be the case. you are deviod of answers, or, to put it another way, you completely lack any understanding of what would constitute 'our' future, other than the worn out myths of an eternal present.

Also, for 'anti racists' why don't you turn on those in the 'cherry reds' you are happy to have in your midst? Maybe you are a similar 'broad' coalition or something. One that tolerates the views of people that view other races as inferior human beings........ funny that......

something is fishy here, and I think this post from one of your 'trollers' on the 'anglo saxon foundation forum' sums it up perfectly:

"Hi i am new to this site and would like to know if anyone would consider coming to the edi leeds demo? The manchester demo was peaceful and i think public opinion is begining to get behind us i.e. we are not right wing not racist not fascist etc. This is off topic however I have read parts of the forum before posting and agree to be totaly english you must be white and of anglo-saxon decent however i have a mate who is of english-indian decent and would be very offended if you said he wasnt english. Do you agree that in order to rid our isle of scum(some muslims) we must not exclude half caste ppl.For example the bnp state only whites can join however if they dropped this and said anyone can join (but still said islam is wicked etc) all colours and creeds would join to defeat the horde. Most ppl know we cannot have an all anglo-saxon england now due to globalisation and inter-marriage of races however the majority of england can and should be english and ppl support this however if u speak out for pure anglo-saxon u r racist but if you speak out against millitant islam you are not.Going back to my mate who is half english he might not be geneticaly english but in my eyes he is and if bnp could include ppl like him they might stand a chance in general elections etc.Sorry if this rambles on i am a bit drunk lol
ENGLISH LOYAL"

http://www.uepengland.com/bbs/index.php/topic/15369-edl-leeds/

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......

Anonymous said...

also, from the same forum. Pretty much sums up alot at the moment:

''Posted 25 October 2009 - 07:21 PM
All bar 2 of my mates r white and not one of them has ever shown any interest in politics however since the edl formed 10 of them are bang up for it (the rest see it as a piss up). What i am saying is in order to get anything done you must engage the voters if that means diluting your agenda a bit then so be it.We are all in the 27-32 bracket the youth need to be involved aswell football involves them.Black ppl aint english genecticaly but that does not mean they cant live here. Muslims aim to rule us we must all rise to see them off.Do you agree?''

peewee said...

Up yours I say to UpEngland.com.

Why do they call pure white bred Aryan people "Englisc" not English?

What's with the strange spelling?