Friday, 5 March 2010

Today in London - All Kinds of Crazy Part Two

Moving right along...
After the anti-EDL people were detained, dispersed, or just went away, the EDL was ushered in by the police. They were 'fired up' but appeared relatively orderly. However when 3 young kids (late teens) began taunting them from right beside where I was standing (why are these people always drawn to me???) the rear of the crowd went wild, yelling and screaming and clearly trying to push through the police line and engage with the youngsters. In the end, nobody broke through the police line and the march continued. (Sidenote: These three 'youths' were black and Arab - and had been in the anti-EDL crowds, I had seen them before and they were clearly looking for a fight. Of course the fact that some of the EDL crowd lashed out seemed to be undeniable proof to bystanders that they were racist thugs.) Which brings me to the trouble with the EDL. SMW read their website with regards to this protest, and read the instructions given to member that their signs would be screened and that chanting things like "who the f*ck is allah" were not appropriate, however after watching the EDL for several hours today I am still convinced that it is part of hooligan culture. I do believe that there are a number of people in the EDL who love England, love English culture (real English culture) and who want to preserve it, and who want to ensure that the increasing influence of Islamists in the UK is stopped. But after that they lose me. Many of these men (and there were some women there too) appear to be working class folk who are extremely frustrated with the current situation. who are turning to the EDL as their voice. [Sidenote: Unlike in the past where EDL protestors have worn balaclavas, I did not see a single one today, nor did I see more than a couple of people on either side of the protest who had their face covered with a scarf.] The problem with the EDL is that it taps into hooligan culture (for my N/A readers I mean football hooliganism - if you are not familiar with it rent the movie Green Street). The EDL's apparel is pretty familiar to some of the stuff you can for football clubs, they sing variations of football chants (as they did today), and they were also using various gestures today that are commonly used at football matches. What is the problem with this? Well, a little cheer is not a problem but when you are tapping into a culture that is based on street fighting and violence you are likely going to attract hooligans and people who are looking for a good fight. It really takes away from any legitmacy some of your arguments might have.
Once the EDL was stopped at their designated location in front of parliament they did their speeches and then there was basically a back and forth shouting match between a group of EDL and the anti-EDL protestors who remained on the other side of the street. It seemed that alot of people with the EDL were just standing around, while several dozen more louder protestors stood at the front engaging with the other side. They were giving the UK 2 finger salute (which means 'go f*ck yourself') with vigour, and chanting various football chants with modified wording. What was also concerning was a significant number of young kids(early teens) who seemed to be in the crowd with the EDL. SMW is just not into kids at these types of things.
Anyway, while this was going on the United Against Facism crew was screaming various insults at the EDL. Nothing really exciting happened during all of this. There were a couple of times when people from either side tried to break through, briefly skirmished with the police and were then taken away. All in all it was pretty uneventful, much to the media's dismay. There were many photographers standing around the EDL waiting for something to 'go down.' At one point a young EDL guy was removed from the crowd by police (not sure why) and photographers were literally sprinting to get a good shot - until they realized the kid was not resisting (at all), was cooperating with the police, and that as soon as the police got him 30 feet away from the crowd they were just standing and talking to him - then as quickly as they came all the photogs left.
One very poor moment was when a van for an Arab moving company drove through (it clearly said Arab Moving Co. and also had Arabic script on the side of the truck) and loud booooos rose up from the EDL crowd.
Lately it appears the EDL has been trying to clean up its public image and gain more control of what is going on at EDL events - however until they completely back away from hooligan culture they are going to have a hard time finding anyone to take them seriously. Do I think the EDL gets a fair shake from the media? Absolutely not, but they are not a group I would feel comfortable associating with. Unfortunately as growing numbers of people become frustrated with the situation in the UK, and with no "serious" political party willing to tackle serious issues for fears of being labeled a racist, more people are likely to be picking up EDL signs reading: 'England needs a Geert Wilders.'

I followed the disbursement of the EDL protest (the bulk left together, under police escort) for a fair distance and from what I could see it was peaceful and calm. I did not see the remaining UAF people disburse as I was now watching EDL, so not sure how that went.

Two other notes:
1. It was kind of disappointing that there was only one area for people to meet to show support for Geert Wilders, and that was with the EDL.
2. I heard several girls who had been protesting against the EDL telling reporters that EDL members were throwing missiles and beer at them. SMW cannot say for sure that this did not happen (and honestly if it did happen in an isolated incident I would not be overly shocked), however I did find it odd that they were claiming this because I was there for hours and I never saw anyone throw anything. Even after going through all of my pictures I did not see any objects being thrown, nor did I see anyone drinking beer.

Now more photos...

EDL approaching parliament.

As you can see, there really was nothing 'crazy' going on. The event was largely under control.

Sign says to shut down East London Mosque (if you are not familiar with it watch Britain's Islamic Republic from Channel 4's Dispatches).

Really wish the guy in the green had turned around. He had a green mask on, completely obstructed his face. Not sure what he was trying to be.

Media waiting for something, anything, to happen.

Zoom out shot. The crowds were not large.

This is the remains of the EDL group dispersing. Again, everything appeared calm and under control.

And finally these folks were also standing outside parliament. (The picture the guy is holding is of Al Aqsa).

Alright that is it for tonight. SMW will be posting an epilogue tomorrow but right now she needs to eat and sleep.