Luton UK, 2011

Opposing Tommy Robinson and the EDL for Unite Against Fascism

I thought that when I came home I would go into

retirement as a political activist. The strange thing with

this new hobby is that it didn’t happen. I was moved by

a cause myself this time and with no prompting to made

a stand for something I believed in. My previous

girlfriend I had just left was Syrian and a Muslim and

there were plans for the EDL or English Defence League

of to attack Muslim women and children in Luton on the

10th anniversary of their formation. I imagined my friend

Reem as one of those women potentially. I was scared

out of my wits and afraid something might happen and

we might be killed but I was determined to stand in the

main square of Luton, even if I didn’t march through the

city and make my presence felt in a standing protest. No

malice or aggression was intended on my part. I just

wanted to show them up.

Tommy (Lennon) Robinson on Newsnight

What on earth would inspire me to put my life in danger

like that? It was a very turbulent time in England. We

had just had mass riots in 2010 and Luton is in the home



10 years previously the EDL had been formed

as the Royal Anglian Regiment had marched through the

town and some of the predominant Muslim population

in Luton with families in Iraq had organised a standing

protest against the Royal Anglian Regiment. Tommy

Lennon, so named after Luton town’s most famous

football hooligan of the 1980s, (not his real name),

claimed that this protest was being made by radical

Islamists who were trying to poison the British

population against their military and their intervention

in Iraqi politics.


The Muslims held banners with

“Butchers of Basra” on claiming that the British army

had committed war crimes against the civilian

population in the south. It is uncertain to this day

whether they were, the news blackout in that area

could imply a cover up. The story has been swept aside.

However, it could be that the Muslim groups were

exploiting genuine grief for their own political gain.

Lennon was himself attacked several times for having a

go it them in the protest and had to wear a stab vest. He

was sent to prison, but on Newsnight he didn’t come

across as a very pleasant character at all.


As I had just been going out with a member of the Syrian elite.

I felt I had to risk my life to defend my Muslim girlfriend’s

interests in Luton. The thing is with all that has happened

afterwards some of his theories may have been

vindicated and Lennon demonised to a certain extent to

protect a political line favourable to the left

To be fair to him his fears may have been

real, but we really could have been Butchers in Basra. It

was probably six of one half a dozen of the other. It just

didn’t feel that way at the time in my naivety I just

imagined Reem as one of those women being attacked. I

was defending my interests by going in other words.

In preparation for the protest I attended a meeting of the Socialist Workers Party the SWP at Essex

University in which the leading light of the scene

recommended that we didn’t get involved in the

antifascist scene in the UK unless we were serious about

doing it professionally as you were likely to get a certain

reputation as a trouble maker and get threatened by

the EDL and possibly attacked.


I was however determined to make a stand against the arrogance of

Lennon whom I had despised on Newsnight destroying

even the very capable Jeremy Paxman. He gave me so

much of the wrong impression that I was willing to risk

my life to say how I felt about him at that stage.

I was trembling in my boots when the day came to get on the

minibus. I was crying almost because I thought I was

going to either get beaten up or stabbed myself. So, on

the way out I just saw the confirmation cross my school

chaplain had made me from an Olive branch in

Bethlehem and I grabbed that with its shoelace chain

and put it round my neck held it praying that

I’d be okay and that the Muslims would be protected. I

took it with me as a talisman and wore it the whole day.

For once, at least my prayers were answered and I came

to no harm.


Having My Photos Taken for the Police Database

When I got to Essex University from who’s campus I am

officially banned for no real reason. I said something rude

because I was losing my woman. I shouldn’t even have entered the

car park even they were so strict. The four of us

going were met by a police riot van.


A policeman armed with a camera

photographed our faces and said that we would be kept

on a police database of protestors for 3 months after

the event because they were expecting a lot of trouble.

If we did riot then it would be easier for them to prosecute us.


Many of us were very unhappy about this,

but they refused to let us on the bus without a mugshot.

It was supposed to be a free country but no, we didn’t

get away without going on that database as far as I

know I could be still on there, probably am. The officer

gave us the option of going home right then or having a

mugshot and nothing else. He said that was a free

choice, but it is our right as citizens to protest in a

registered protest there was nothing illegal about what

we were doing. It was a bit like Minority Report the

movie in my opinion guilty of committing future crimes

before they had occurred. It is typically, and bigotedly

Colcestrian. Colchester is an army town and they are so

big on niggling details and little bits of discipline like that.

Those Present at the Protest


Present on the protest were the future leader of the

student union UK Mark Bergfeld a member of Die Linke

from just outside Cologne. He didn’t travel in

with us, me and an American female student, a guy

from Liverpool studying politics at Essex, and a red

headed male student who was determined to start a


Facing Down the Enemy

The student from Liverpool was an experienced

antifascist protestor and he taught me how to face

down the enemy and scare them off even if they are

armed. He said that if we did march the likelihood

increased of us having to use that skill against the EDL.


Basically, you make your body as large as possible shout

at them louder than they shout at you and then run as

fast as you can away from them. If they don’t run you

do, but it’s Tarzanesque show of male strength and

nothing else apparently in that situation.


We also exchanged mobile numbers to keep in touch at any one

time. It was frightening that protest it really was.

The Standing Protest in the Market Square

Apart from Mark Bergfeld marching up to the Muslim suburb of Bury Park to meet some of the Muslim leaders we were supposed to be defending the general idea was to confine the demonstrations by the EDL and the counter-demonstration to standing protests in two adjacent squares. The EDL had slightly more people than us we had about 800 they had about 1500. One of the old lefties with a wizened face a veteran of the Militant Labour demonstrations of the 1980s smiled at me with his yellowing and broken teeth and chatted to me offering a Militant Magazine. It was a bit like Wuppertal again fancying the girl with green hair and viewing the two punks with Mohicans on the mini stage that formed our live band entertainment. I met some gay Rastafarians and a genuine 1960’s hippie girl with a rose adorning her whilst hair boogieing away on the right with her partner. There was much leafleting going on and big inflatable mock ups of Tony Blair. There was the iron fist in a clunking great banner marked with SWP. We were allowed to permeate the police presence at first and buy drinks, get something to eat and go to the loo in the only department store that was open and collect placards. Apparently, according to management an attempt to stop the EDL assembling at the railway station had been partially successful.


Heavy Police Presence

The police were there in abundance with a ring of steel

formed around us and the EDL both protecting and

confining us. The square was circular and fairly small

with all the shops having closed down for the day and

been boarded up. It looked a little like ground

zero. The police were stationed in a circular fashion

adorned with full riot gear, shields and police horses. So,

the full caboodle. A presence of 2000 plus officers

attended that day. We saw hundreds of police cars

parked on the way out. In fact, they cheated on us and

let the EDL march whilst confining us to a standing


Getting videoed for U-Tube by Some Muslim Guys with

Mobile Phones

When we were outside the department store some

young muslim guys videoed us with mobile phones to

place us on U-Tube with our placards. I had a big bushy

beard at that stage and I was jumping up and down

saying my bit for anti-racism.

Fight For This Love

When we returned to the square the band played a

number of hits for a while whilst the leader of the

protest started to make a series of speeches. Everything was

fine until they decided to play Fight for This Love by Cheryl Cole

and then the whole crowd just moved on

mass to break through the police lines and beat up the

EDL whilst I moved back into the opposite direction

and waited in the centre of the square.

They attempted

to break through the police lines and make a few

headlines by beating them up despite the police

presence. Sirens went off and they might have overturned a car

Someone was telling me that unless they

were violent they were unlikely to win any publicity

from the event but the EDL would. I had never been involved

when a protest had gotten violent and turned into a riot

like that before and I was notably shaken and scared by

the actions of the side I was supposed to be

representing. They didn’t share my views on violence and

aggravated protest and I never took part again in

antifascist action in the UK.

“When He Wraps It Up. You Can Go!”

We were waiting to go for a long time after that phase

of the protest. The protest leader who was some kind of

teacher in London had gotten into a massive heated

rant on how socialism had smashed fascism in past

decades with its iron fist and would do so again, thus

destroying all the bigots and cons and corrupt officials in

society or words to that effect. The police officer was

giggling away in his riot gear and saying, “When he

wraps it up. You can go!”.


We were scared and we wanted to get

the hell out of Luton by nightfall and we

had to wait at least an extra twenty minutes or half hour

before slipping away to the relative safety of our

minibus where a rather relived scouser was glad to make a

quick getaway. Even the guy who had suggested

facing down the EDL was scared by that stage.