The English Defence League are to hold their first national rally planned since the death of Lee Rigby in Birmingham this Saturday (20th). Tensions are running high after attempted nail bomb attacks on mosques in Tipton and Walsall.
The EDL are being corralled into a pub in Broad Street for up to three hours before being allowed out for the short walk to Centenary Square at around 2pm. They will then be bussed out again. This looks like the very same operation as the last outing for the League to the city in 2011 that saw over a 1000 cops put the city centre on lock-down.
However this time round the EDL have achieved a degree of success in capitalising on the death of Lee Rigby. Their last national demo, in Newcastle, planned months in advance but occurring just days after the murder saw an estimated 1,500 EDL on the streets. Two days later and anti-fascists found themselves outnumbered again in Downing St. The league are likely to get good numbers out in Birmingham.
However on the plus side the various 'Strong' groups that sprang up in the wake of Rigby's killing seem to have run their course. Either they failed to attract a great deal of support in the first place or they acted in ways to distance themselves from the EDL such as Woolwich Strong donating money to an Islamic cultural centre.
Anti-fascists also mobilised quickly to disrupt various EDL attempts to seize the moment with impromptu wreath laying ceremonies.
Although the mainstream media couldn't get enough of Tommy Robinson, covering his 'charity walks' on national TV and inviting him onto Newsnight, thankfully armed forces charity Help for Heroes refused to have anything to do with him or the EDL, a stance that denied them legitimacy in constituency, they're desperate to colonise.
So why Birmingham? The EDL have a chequered history here in fact their very first demo in August 2009 saw running battles with Asian youth in the city centre. Back then SchNEWS asked “Who benefits from images of radicalised Asian youth fighting with outnumbered white men?” and examined the EDL's efforts at creating a strategy of tension between communities. This strategy has borne fruit in the number of anti-Muslim attacks that have occurred since Rigby was killed. Tommy's recent attempts to walk solo into Tower Hamlets under the guise of a charity walk are part of the same strategy – what he really wanted was for the Muslim youth of the area to be goaded into attacking him or the police so he could claim there was a 'no-go area' for whites in the capital city.
The EDL revisit this rhetoric in the explanation on their website of why they're coming to Birmingham, demanding “Why is there an ‘occupied territory’ or a ‘no-go area’ in the heart of our second largest city?” and stating as a fact “Muslims however, seek to impose their own set of laws and belief systems on the people of England, while showing contempt for British law and democracy.” The fact that there isn't a no-go area and that outside of a few nutters the Muslims of Britain are up to no such thing doesn't deter them from going on to say “More importantly, we are not going to stand idly by [while] Birmingham become literally the Tora Bora valley of England. Our ancestors fought the Romans, the Vikings, the French and destroyed the Nazis.”
(SchNEWS note to the EDL historical division: the Romans and Vikings invaded successfully, the struggle with the French could at best be described as a draw and this proud island nation had quite a lot of help with beating Adolf)
Wild historical comparisons aside, the EDLs mission in Brum is to galvanize race hate and to create scenes of race war. It is imperative that anti-fascists of all backgrounds are on the streets to oppose them.
For more autonomous anti-fascism see ANTI FASCIST NETWORK
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