The EDL visited the small town of Wellington in the Telford New Town area of Shropshire to continue spreading their message against extremist Islam. Their reputation for facilitating disorder wherever they go, together with the recent spate of riots elsewhere in the country, resulted in a zero risk policy within the town. Nearly all of the shops in the town centre were boarded up, and closed, thus consigning this community to economic desolation for a day. The Police had a heavy prescence with many dogs on standby and the now ubiquitous uncompromising steel police cordons.
Walking through the town centre before the event a number of people approached us to discuss the occasion in a somewhat bemused way. It was not clear to them quite why the EDL had decided to come to the town, however late in the conversation it became evident that the outstanding charges against Muslim men who had been allegedly trafficking young girls may well have been the trigger. As the conversation proceeded one person then explained how the driving habits of some of the Muslim men was the source of much annoyance – then giving some examples of questionable practices. An interesting conversation that uncovered a thinly veiled racially biased perspective, albeit not overtly racist; he then invited us to view his newly refurbished church.
The EDL’s rationale for being in Wellington was not directed at extreme Muslim activities – there was no evidence that such people were living here. It was to highlight an example of crimes that happened to have been perpetrated by Muslim men. Needless to say there are many examples of sex trafficking by men from all communities. This racially biased perspective was not dissimilar to that of the man we spoke to earlier.
The march had been banned at late notice, however the rally was allowed to continue, and the gathering of a few hundred people met a short distance from the station. A few locals observed seemingly more out of curiousity than much interest.
The marshalling was robust, and when a young lad threw a beer can into the crowd he was turned on very quickly by the EDL who ejected him through the police lines. On occasions they tried to quell the puerile anti-Muslim chanting that happens at these events, although without much sustained success. They also had a reasonably good relationship with the Police which resulted in me, and one colleague ( veterans of many EDL events), being forcibly removed from their area back behind the Police lines – for our own safety, and to avoid any unnecessary public disorder.
Kevin Carroll made one of the speeches ( in the absence of the serially banned Tommy Robinson) and was very canny in recognising the horror of the deaths of the 3 Muslim men in Birmingham last week, and praised the rectitude of Tariq Jahan in trying to dampen any calls for further riots. This was followed by a minute’s silence. Herein lies the continual dichotomy within the EDL – if you respect ordinary Muslims, why then proceed to severely criticise and disrespect their holy book.
There are 3 Mosques in Wellington which, through troubles in history, had never mended a rift between them over the last 30 years – delicate and well-intentioned attempts at reconciliation had failed. The threat of the EDL coming to Wellington, and the potential attack on the local Muslim population, had overcome this division and unity had been achieved. The “law of unintended consequences” had played its mischievous hand once again, and good had come out of a potentially negative situation.
The EDL was on its very best behaviour to ensure that there was no scope for negative publicity, and that was achieved for the main event. Shortly after there was scuffling in Morrison’s car park as a number of the EDL and Muslim group clashed – this was dealt with very quickly by the Police.
The Wellington shop owners may not have been looted in the same way that had occurred throughout England over the previous seven days, but they were left wondering how this group from far off cities could just descend on them, without invitation, and cause so much unnecessary financial damage….and for what real purpose?