Theresa May’s decision to ban any marches in Bradford next weekend will not stop the English Defence League turning up to cause bother. They have been bigging this one up so much that they cannot afford a damp squib and defying the cops and the ban is all part of the fun. Of course, the ban does not cover the static demo which the EDL have organised but it is highly likely the cops will use the same tactics they used before the Scottish demo by turning back any vanloads of EDL before they get to the city. West Yorkshire plod are well versed in such tactics which they fine-tuned during the pit strike of 84/85 to impede flying pickets. Counter-demonstrators could be met with similar methods however a large section of the local community will oppose the EDL. The attitudes of local constabularies have been monitored on the EDL web forum and they know that these vary from county to county. The actions of West York’s police will illustrate their attitude on Saturday but they know that relations with the local community are fragile and they are seen negatively by many locals after the riots in 2001 (something which the darker forces behind the EDL are hoping to recreate).
The ban also covers any anti-fascist march but there will no doubt be a static counter-demo with members of UAF, Antifa and local Muslim youth – who have proved themselves to be very militant in the past. The Hope Not Hate campaign have been calling for people not to demonstrate whilst UAF and more militant antifascists have said the opposite. Whatever your opinion there will be a lot of tension in town that night with the EDL attempting to inflame the local Muslim community and the cops and local youth responding with physical force, although obviously not for the same reasons.
The English Defence League are not defensive but provocative. Why else go to Birmingham, Bolton or Bradford except to wind up the large Asian communities? It is crucial to understand that the EDL are ‘taking liberties’ which is very much part of the football hooligan mentality which they share. Taking liberties means occupying the opposition’s pub, smashing it up, taking over part of the home fans’ end or some other gesture. The idea of going into areas with large Asian communities and provoking them is part of this mentality, i.e., getting away with it. Consuming large amounts of lager from the local Wetherspoon’s (who seem perfectly happy to be the unofficial HQ of the EDL), shouting a lot and goading each other on to break the police lines is the point. And the more publicity the better. The EDL is a vanity operation and the thugs love to get their (masked) faces on the TV or photos in the paper so they can glue them into their little scrapbooks. Their use of ‘black and white unite’, Israeli flags and ‘peaceful protest’ is heavily ironic but also another example of ‘taking liberties.’
The EDL still claim to have nothing to do with the BNP despite their leaders being exposed as former members. Many dislike being called ‘Nazis’ and indeed many are not, the EDL has a broad political spectrum from conservative through to neo-Nazis. There are posters on the neo-Nazi forums who support the EDL for taking to the streets. Batty Lee Barnes, humiliatingly sacked from the BNP last week, has also been telling the EDL how best to organise on his blog. But he is mad so they may not take much notice. Other Nazis are less enthusiastic and see the EDL as a Zionist front. But they say that about everything from the BBC to Marxism. The fact that they utilise the same tactics as Moseley’s British Union of Fascists seems to have escaped the EDL: lots of bullyboys marching into a targeted area to intimidate residents, lots of inflammatory rhetoric and lots of public disorder and consequent publicity. The EDL have also been turning up at anti-EDL meetings attempting to disrupt them much like the BUF did with communist and anti-fascist meetings. So the EDL are not fascist by name – only in everything they say and do. Most EDL members would say they weren’t fascists because they do not understand the ideology and they are out simply for a beer, a scrap and taking the piss seeing as they can’t do it at football anymore.
Despite the EDL’s ‘multiracialism’ and Jewish division the vast majority on the demos are aggressive white males. The EDL have managed to get about 2,000 out but recent demos have been less successful hence the trumpeting of Bradford as the ‘big one’ to make sure we all know they are still there. Despite their paper membership on Facebook the only ones who count are the ones who turn up on the day. The EDL have been on about their Jewish division, gay division and now Anarchist division which is so contradictory it has to be a wind-up. They only count on the cobbles. Any idiot can sign up to Facebook.
The EDL have been reckless on their demos and many of them have been arrested and charged, filmed, photographed or had their details taken by plod. The EDL are helping the state monitor and contain far-right extremists whilst echoing the anti-Islamic sentiment that is required for the ongoing tragedies of Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran in the future!). The EDL’s politics are nonsensical to say the least: they claim they are against extremists in the various communities but do not name any; they claim they are against Sharia law which does not affect them in any way; and they claim they are protesting against militant Islam which is a media-created moral panic with which they are happy to collude.
The EDL claim they are not racist and point to their 1 Sikh member and their mixed race youth leader but these characters remain unconvincing and appear confused. The EDL represent a more modified form of popular racism – Anti-Asianism. In hooligan history black firms like the Man City Kool Kats or the mixed Birmingham Zulus have shown they are game and therefore ‘alright.’ The influence of black players and black popular music has also ratified this status. However, Asian players and Asian music have made little impact on the lives of the EDL and they tend to see everyone with a brown skin as a ‘paki’ regardless of where they are from. They view the Asian communities with suspicion and use the guise of ‘militant Islam’ as a cover for their Anti-Asianism in the same way other right-wingers use anti-Israeli sentiment as covert anti-Semitism.
So what will happen this weekend? There will be a large counter-demo of local people and activists; plod will probably prevent a lot of EDL coming in, as they have done in the past; the static protest will go ahead but with limited numbers; and if the EDL are feeling particularly perky they will no doubt attempt to break the police lines like they did in Stoke and Dudley to get at the counter-demo and/or the Asian community. The result? Lots of publicity, the EDL egos revived after recent disappointments and ‘legal trouble’, the cops being very heavy handed with everyone and a large bill for the local community to pay for. Well done!