Cricklewood – Round 3

People outside World Media Services shout at a small group of SEA supporters across the road

Cricklewood isn’t a place I often visit, and perhaps there is not a great deal to draw the visitor there. Even when I was engaged in my encyclopaedic photographic wanderings of London in the 1980s and 1990s I’m not sure if I penetrated to its core (if it has one.) Its always seemed to me a kind of in-between place, between Kilburn and the North Circular, Willesden Green and Fortune Green, split between the boroughs of Brent, Barnet and Camden. A railway line – and some railway cottages, the A5 and some shops.

World Media Services with North West London United supporters outside to protect it from the SEA

And it was one of those shops that was the object of my journey. A closed-down kebab place, the room above it the home of a small web company run by Egyptians (though it wasn’t clear whether it was still in use) with the grandiose title of World Media Services. One of the activities based there was an unofficial English language web site for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a political party founded way back in the colonial era in Egypt in 1928 which became a rather unexpected beneficiary of the Arab Spring which led to its becoming legal in 2011, having been illegal in Egypt for most of its existence, and its candidate Mohammed Morsi (standing for the Freedom and Justice Party) was elected as president in 2012.

Not unsurprisingly there was some activity in London around World Media Services when Morsi was deposed by the military a year later and there were protests by the supporters of the MB around the world. But it was probably sloppy reporting that led to the small group in Cricklewood being designated as the European headquarters of the MB, and if it had been important in their organisation it seems clear that their activities in Europe are now based in Graz, Austria – also, coincidentally the home of the bi-lingual photography magazine Camera Austria.

The SEA march from Kilburn started with 3 men and a woman some way behind

But Cricklewood is a little closer to home than Graz for supporters of the South East Alliance, a right wing group which includes former supporters of the EDL, BNP, EVF, NF, British Movement, and other extreme right groups, led by Paul Pitt, former  Essex/South East EDL organiser (the EDL called him a Nazi and expelled him in 2012; he was fined for racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress outside the US Embassy in May 2011.)

I get insulted taking pictures

I missed the first two SEA protests in Cricklewood in June and July (I was on holiday for the second and had better things to do on the first) and was surprised given the poor turnout for their second protest they had decided to try again. But this third round, which I was able to cover turned out to be even smaller than the second, disappointing for photography but rather positive for Cricklewood. One poster read “We Are Happy in our Diversity. Leave Us Alone to Enjoy It!’ and perhaps that wish will now be respected.

I don’t like covering the extreme right, but I think it is important to show what they are like, and I try to do so in an objective fashion, reporting as accurately as I can what they say and what they do. I think they condemn themselves more effectively than I could. They constantly complain of unfair treatment by the press and there is sometimes some truth in this, but swearing and threatening reporters as many of them do is hardly a way to encourage fair reporting.

I get attacked with a Union Flag on a bamboo pole

I was particularly disgusted at the disrespect the SEA, who claim to be patriots, showed towards their national flags, using them and the bamboo poles they were on as weapons, attempting to poke out the eyes of photographers or damage their cameras. And at the police response to this; rather than warning or arresting those using offensive weapons or confiscating them, they simply prevented photographers going within range of them.

At the start of the SEA march at Kilburn there were four photographers present (including one apparently working for the SEA – most of the others had stayed at Cricklewood) and four marchers, and although another perhaps 20 turned up at Cricklewood it was still a rather pathetic event, with the protesters outnumbered by around 150 people supporting the counter protest. Some who had come in the morning had left early when they saw how small the SEA protest was.

I think the pictures – you can see many more at South East Alliance ‘Racist Thugs Not Welcome’ – show clearly the differences between the two groups which faced each other in Cricklewood. On one side an atmosphere of suspicion and hate and on the other a welcome and openness to being photographed.  I think the account I’ve given of the event is accurate, fair and unbiased (except perhaps for the headline, which originally read South East Alliance told ‘Racist Thugs Not Welcome’ but that was too long.)


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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