Campaigners battling the Scottish Defence League are to ask every pub in Edinburgh to ban members of the far-right group on the day of their coming protest in the capital
The Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance hopes to disrupt the SDL’s usual tactics, which involve congregating in a pub before marching on a city. Several pubs have already vowed to ban any SDL supporters from their premises and one branch of national chain Wetherspoons has reportedly agreed to beef up its security ahead of the march, which takes place in the capital on February 20. The Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance has already written to some 100 pubs in the city, and this week will write to the 200 others in Edinburgh.
A spokesman for the Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance, who claimed he was too scared of reprisals from the SDL to give his name, said: “We’re a bunch of local people who hate racism and don’t want these people to march through our streets. We want to urge people to get involved in the planning of a reaction to the protest of the racist Scottish Defence League.”
The letter they have already sent to pubs features pictures from previous protests, depicting a gang of men in balaclavas and English football tops as well as shots from another demonstration of two men displaying an English flag near the entrance to a pub in Sheffield.
The letter said: “We are writing to inform you that ‘Scottish’ Defence League thugs may gather and get drunk in your pub before their racist demonstration. This may cause problems for renewing your licence, and may result in a consumer boycott. We are sure that your pub is welcoming to anyone of any ethnic background, however your hospitality may be taken advantage of on the 20th of February, when the ‘Scottish’ Defence League is planning a march in Edinburgh.”
The SDL is an off-shoot of the English Defence League, an organisation that exists to challenge the perceived threat of extremist Islam. They have led several marches on cities around Britain, including Glasgow, where activists were penned into a pub and briefly allowed to protest before being bussed off by police. An unprecedented cross-party alliance gathered to oppose them in Glasgow, under the banner of Scotland United.
An SDL representative, who goes by the name of Don, said the group would not be intimidated by anti-fascist measures to ban them from city-centre pubs. Don said: “Who are the fascists, telling people they can’t go into a public house? On what basis can you ban a group of people from going into a pub? These pubs are scared of these people, who come up and smash them up if they are not intimidated enough to close. No matter what happens we’ll be there in Edinburgh.”
He added that the decision to meet in pubs was taken for “safety reasons” and claimed SDL supporters were better off inside as there were opponents on the streets who wanted to attack them.
The Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance denied it would use any force or try to intimidate public houses. Several pubs have already agreed to ban SDL supporters in the case of any trouble. Others are consulting their area manager to discuss a ban. The manager of one well-known bar said: “It’s all about the safety of our team and customers.”
Wetherspoons in George Street is to put on extra security on the day, mindful that the EDL have used their premises as meeting points during previous demonstrations. But a spokesman for Wetherspoons said they would allow anyone in, as long as there was no trouble.
He said: “You can’t stop someone coming in because of their views – you’d have empty pubs. Where would you stop? What anti-fascists think is right, corporations don’t. Like any right-minded people, we don’t agree with the EDL or the SDL. But if their supporters come to our pub and don’t cause trouble, we won’t turn them away. If they misbehave, we will ask them to leave.”