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
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.
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.