Exploiting Terror

I don’t like photographing the extreme right, though I think it is important to document their activities, as well as those that go out onto the streets to oppose them. But their attempts to exploit the reprehensible attacks by a few deranged terrorists on people on the streets of London for their Islamophobic agenda I find particularly depressing and distasteful.

Londoners had made their feelings clear, both in the flowers on Westminster Bridge and in Parliament Square, and in the vigil the day after the Westminster attack in Trafalgar Square in which all communities in our city – including many Muslims – took part.

Britain First have a record of insulting Muslims, of making a nuisance of themselves in mosques and more. Their deputy leader was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment and fined £2000 for abusing a woman simply because she was wearing a hijab, and their leader jailed for eight weeks for breaching a High Court ban on his entering any mosque in England and Wales.

Behind the banner at the front of their march was a man carrying a ‘Knights Templar’ flag, an organisation including a number of former BNP members with strong links to European neo-Nazi and extreme right groups including the self-styled paramilitary Shipka Bulgarian National Movement and a banned Hungarian group.

But it is too easy to take dramatic pictures full of flags of Britain First – and leader Paul Golding arrived with a van full of them, though a few others had brought their own.

I found the rally upsetting, and in particular its misuse of Christianity, which did make me wonder how many of those present would be in church the following day. Certainly there was no Christian charity or message of love on display, and I think there would be vanishing few sermons preached in churches that would have been acceptable here.

Also out on the streets were the EDL, though they met at the Wetherspoons on Whitehall – and I photographed the police actually forcing them back into the pub as the anti-fascists were being rather heavy-handedly escorted away from the area on the opposite side of the road. At one time one group of police was trying to push them down Whitehall while another group of officers attempted to stop them, and a few protesters got rather badly squashed in the middle. It was rather a muddle, and there were a few arrests and at least one photographer assaulted by police. I got just a little pushed around but tried hard to keep out of the way.

Eventually police did manage to escort the few EDL supporters down for a rally close to where Britain First were holding their rally. For some reason they didn’t want to be photographed, and one of their stewards insisted I leave – and made a complaint about me to the police.

I didn’t have any time for the officer who came to speak to me, reminding her of the MPS Guidelines which clearly state “Members of the media have a duty to report on incidents and do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places. Police have no power or moral responsibility to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel” and saying it was none of her job to run around for the EDL.

So I took my pictures and then left, hoping to be able to take some more pictures of the anti-fascist, but because of the police barricades it took rather a long walk to get to them, and many had left by the time I arrived. But it was good to be back again among people who were happy to be photographed.

More at:
UAF protest extreme right marches
Britain First & EDL exploit London attack


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