With only a week to go before the Scottish Defence League takes to the streets of Edinburgh for a second time, the leaders of the far-right organisation have admitted that they have lost control over the supporters that follow their protests
A recent English Defence League demonstration in Stoke turned into a “pogrom” against Muslims, according to anti-fascists, that was so violent it shocked even the Defence League leadership, who were quick to deny responsibility. Now Defence League organisers say that this Saturday’s planned demonstration in the capital is at risk of descending into chaos because leaders are losing control of the mass movement.
More than 1,500 people turned up on the side of the English Defence League in Stoke – the sister organisation of the Scottish Defence League – dwarfing the tiny number of anti-fascists that gathered to stand against them. The mob turned over police riot vans, smashed the windows of Muslim homes and tried to attack a mosque. Organisers believe some 500 Scottish Defence League supporters will turn up in the capital next weekend.
Defence League leaders claim that hundreds of BNP supporters and other thugs turned up in Stoke simply looking for a fight.
Mickey, who leads Casuals United and is part of the EDL leadership, said: “Stoke was horrendous. It went mental. Hundreds of BNP members turned up. You can’t go around rioting like that, because eventually they’ll ban the movement. The people that came don’t care about the EDL, they just turn up for the riots.”
He added: “We’re not conspiring to cause riots. Yes, we have a lot of criminals attaching themselves to us and people that come along to kick off, but we’re trying to deal with that.”
The police are now so concerned about the Defence Leagues that the have set up a special unit to try and combat them. Fear of infiltration is at fever pitch amongst the far-right group, with leaders even claiming that Special Branch tried to sneak into their ranks by disguising an officer as a Hells Angel. The biker allegedly visited every regional Defence League leader in the county, asking for membership details and taking photographs. When enquires were made, no motorcycle gang had heard of him.
Police have also warned the EDL that Islamic extremists are plotting to attack their demonstrations and told them that any future protests in Birmingham could be attacked by suicide bombers. Meanwhile, the Defence Leagues are making allegiances of their own, including with the Orange Order in Belfast, with the aim of opening a wing of the Defence Leagues in Ulster.
Mickey had this further warning: “People all around the country are kicking off against Islam. The government and police must be worried. Our movement’s gone from 30 or 40 people when we started doing demos in London, to thousands now. It hasn’t even been a year.”
Unite Against Fascism held its annual conference yesterday. The group feels that the threat from fascism is worse than ever and has warned that racist violence could become commonplace on the streets of Britain unless action is taken to combat it.
Weyman Bennet, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: “There was an attempt to try and have a kind of pogrom in Stoke. You’ve got fascists becoming successful in elections. Fascists are also at the centre of bringing racist football thugs on to the streets. This brings us into a very dangerous situation and we are at risk of major conflict. We will protest against the EDL or SDL wherever they go. We will not allow them to intimidate a community.”