The “homecoming” of the EDL “back to where it all started” was the subject of much anticipation, and hype and depending on the angle you come from will have been a disappointment or a roaring success.
There is not much more to be said about the what the EDL stand for, and their nemesis the UAF, who almost justify their existence by the very prescence of the anti-Islamicists. Their rhetotic is sensational, the anecdotes questionable, and their binding philosophy not much beyond the intellectual complexity of why anyone supports a football team. They oscillate between pro-Police and anti, but are forthright in their support of the troops overseas which, is in itself, a laudable position. They do bring in a number of issues like this which cannot be disputed as a way of legitimising their cause, and by packaging them as a whole then criticise any dissenters as being against “the boys and girls in Afghanistan.” A bit of contorted logic that doesn’t really distract anyone from what they are really about.
When given the opportunity to speak on TV, the EDL, principally in the guise of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or Guramit Singh, spout out pre-processed and de-contextualised factoids at machine gun speed, with little analysis. Most often examples of where Muslims have been involved in crimes are seen as the scourge of Islam, as opposed to the default position of “crime in society” which is evident in all ethnic elements in the UK. Their thesis implies that non-Muslim people do not kill, are not paedophiles, etc – which is clearly a nonsense.
The day commenced with the usual agenda of the UAF congregating in a separate location – Bradford, almost 12 months ago, was the last time that the 2 groups faced each other head on. The EDL mustered in a couple of pubs just by the station with plenty of time to get drunk and well-lubricated for the rest of the day. The gathering was generally a cordial affair and the usual overt antipathy to press was not evident at this stage. The UAF managed to successfully block the EDL from the exit of the station for a short period – but they were dispersed successfully, and great swathes of lads came through later on.
As the pubs stopped serving and the beer ran out, the march gathered itself together down Midland Road with great anticipation. The nearer it got to 1pm, the more agitated and excited the crowd got. The Police had the whole situation under control and the EDL marshals worked hard to keep the first few lines under control despite a few attempts to beat themselves up.
It was at this point, that Rabbi Nachum Shifren had to be helped from the crowd looking very shaken. The Rabbi was on the march in London in October and made his views known which seemed to be a random selection of anti-everything …other than EDL. He spoke fluently and used the EDL gathering outside the pub as an example of multi-culturalism – who were all white ethnic Caucasians, mainly from the UK. There were a few from other European countries, and one guy found an oriental looking lad of about 14, and made a great play of him, to demonstrate that they were not racist. This very act seemed to be defensive and is in the similar vein as ” I’m not a racist as one of my mates is black”.
Joining the Rabbi exiting from the crowd was a man with a cut to his lip, saying very clearly that he’d been hit by Tommy. In EDL circles, Tommy doesn’t need a surname – it’s like Delia, Elton, or Stelios – you know exactly who they mean, the surname is superfluous.
The crowd moved quickly and vocally into the town centre to the rally point which was a tightly enclosed area, made-to-measure for this event. Tommy did his speech, the details of which we have all heard many times before. After about 45 mins people started drifting away in a controlled way back to the station. There was high expectation that they would break free and run to the Bury Park area. There was a rumour that there had been an attack on a mosque but there was no real support for this.
Although a big crowd stayed to the end a good proportion got bored with the lengthy speeches and pub-standard music.
The UAF side was peaceful as well, although when they heard the rumour that the EDL had attacked a mosque there was a confrontation with the Police by 50 or so UAF. This involved a number of injuries including a broken leg but became controlled and eventually they were marched back to their original location.
The “Battle of Luton” never took place, the EDL behaved themselves well compared to other events, everyone got their point across, and the Police did an excellent job in containing what could have been a serious situation. So it was a grand day out for all concerned, apart from the shoppers and community in Luton whose Saturday was a write-off, and trade was annihilated to a depressive level in a recessionary period when they could ill afford it….welcome home EDL?