EDL, FLA & Anti-Fascists

Police has taken what seemed excessive precautions to prevent a clash between the EDL and anti-fascists on the streets of London, imposing conditions for their protests under Section 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act, 1986, due to their concerns of serious public disorder, and disruption to the community, and there was a very large force on the streets, easily outnumbering the protesters.

Of course neither group conformed in detail to the conditions, but there were plenty of police around to keep the anti-fascists away from the EDL and rather more to protect the small group of EDL supporters as they stood outside the Wetherspoons (a few more were inside) but the numbers of both groups were pretty small – perhaps a total of around 50 for the EDL and roughly twice that for the UAF counter-protet. Though I can’t understand why any police officer thought they would get the EDL to gather anywhere but in a pub.

Obviously I have my own views on the EDL, but as well as making these clear in what I write I’ve always tried to report their actions objectively and accurately – which is perhaps why I get so much hate from a few of them. Fortunately there were plenty of police around and I felt reasonably safe taking pictures from a close distance with my usual wide-angle lens. And as usual there were some of them who also photographed me, probably to add to the portfolio on right-wing hate sites which encourage violence against photographers.

But most of them were in a reasonably good mood, enjoying the day out and the publicity – and even smiling for the camera. Police had held them at the pub until they had escorted most of the anti-fascists down to a pen on the embankment a couple of hundred yards away from where the EDL rally was to be held.

I’d earlier photographed the anti-fascists as they gathered at the top of Northumberland Avenue which they had thought the EDL would be escorted down. They were a much more ethnically diverse group than the EDL, with many women and looked rather more like a typical London crowd, though some were wearing mask and there was a group of clowns. But the whole atmosphere was much more friendly and positive and there were absolutely no problems in taking pictures – even from very close distances with the police standing well back.

I moved back and forth a little between the two groups and then followed the EDL as they were escorted down to their rally, around half an hour later than I had expected. Their late departure meant that I arrived at a third protest, by a new group called the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) more or less as the event ended with laying of wreaths on London Bridge, the scene of the most recent terror attack in London. The police had also issued them with conditions, preventing them from marching on to Borough Market.

Although I reported that the march was a silent one – as the organisers had intended, I later watched a video that showed at least some of the marchers had been shouting and chanting anti-Muslim slogans on the route, though the thousand or more football supporters on the bridge were applauding politely when I arrived and held a short silence in memory of those killed in the attack.

Like the EDL, the FLA are keen to point out that they are not a racist organisation, though some of the actions they urge the government to take seem both simplistic and an attack on the human rights of citizens, and particularly Muslims. Clearly on this march some of the marchers had no qualms about being openly Islamophobic. And although the event was more restrained than those organised by the EDL, with no flags or banners, there was no evidence of any of the left-wing or anti-racist football groups and campaigns being involved.

I walked down to London Bridge station, stopping briefly to take pictures of the many sticky notes and huge pile of flowers, now rather faded, left by Londoners in memory of the dead, and then caught the Jubilee line back to Westminster where I had a couple of other events to photograph before moving on to the US Embassy and then a victory party for the cleaners which I wrote about earlier.

EDL march against terror
Anti-fascists oppose the EDL
Football Lads Alliance at London Bridge


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