Free Tommy

I have heard Tommy Robinson speak on a number of occasions, photographing protests by the English Defence League and other groups and have found him clearly racist and to incite hatred of Muslims.  In 2011 when leader of the EDL he said:

“Every single Muslim watching this… You had better understand that we have built a network from one end of this country to the other end, and we will not tolerate it, and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our citizens killed, maimed or hurt on British soil ever again.”

He took the name Tommy Robinson from a leading member of the Luton Town  “Men In Gear” (MIG) football hooligans which he was involved with in his teenage years.

After serving an apprenticeship in aircraft engineering he lost his job when sentenced to 12 months for a drunken assault on an off-duty police officer. In 2004 he joined the fascist far-right British National Party, from which he says he resigned after a year. In 2009 he was a part of the United Peoples of Luton, founded to oppose Muslim groups who demonstrated against a march by British troops returning from Afghanistan, and later in the year founded the English Defence League as its leader. In 2011 he was convicted for using “threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour” in a fight he is said to have led between football hooligans the previous year, shouting “EDL till I die”.

Robinson was arrested again in September 2011 for breach of bail conditions when attending an EDL protest in Tower Hamlets and held in jail for several days; at the end of the month he was given a suspended 12 week sentence for common assault on another EDL member at a rally in April in Blackburn. In November 2011 he was arrested in Zurich, jailed for three days and fined for a protest at FIFA’s HQ against a ban on the English team wearing poppies. In 2012 he pleaded guilty to using another person’s passport to enter the US and was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment at the start of 2013.

Business activities caught up with him in 2012 over a mortgage fraud and in January 2014 he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Released on licence he broke the terms and was recalled to jail, being finally released in November 2014. After his period of licence ended in July 2015 he returned to protest with the UK offshoot of the German anti-Immigratyion and anti-Islam Pegida.

In May 2017, while working as a correspondent for the far-right Canandian anti-Islam web site ‘The Rebel Media’ he was arrested outside Canterbury Crown Court for for contempt of court after he attempted to take video of the defendants in a child rape case. The judge, giving him a suspended sentence, commented:

“this is not about free speech, not about the freedom of the press, nor about legitimate journalism, and not about political correctness. It is about justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly, it’s about being innocent until proven guilty. It is about preserving the integrity of the jury to continue without people being intimidated or being affected by irresponsible and inaccurate ‘reporting’, if that’s what it was”

Robinson was arrested for the same reasons outside a court in Leeds where a grooming trial was taking place in May 2018. Admitting the offence he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, with the suspended sentence of 3 months from Canterbury being added on. At the start of August he was released pending an appeal which was partially succesful and a new trial has been ordered.

Robinson’s supporters were up in arms about his arrest, claiming he had been arrested for “free speech” which was clearly not the case. They set up a petition that quickly got half a million signatures and attracted much support worldwide for his release, largely through misleading reporting by far-right news sites.

This protest was allegedly in favour of free speech, something which hardly stands up well with the assaults that protesters made on journalists trying to report it, including myself. Two men made a determined effort to steal my cameras when I was photographing near Downing St, but I managed to twist away from them. They continued their attacks until I was able to reach police standing outside Downing St, when they disappeared into the crowd. I was shaken but not injured by the attacks, and shortly after left the protest to photograph a counter-protest further down Whitehall.

More pictures:
Free Tommy Robinson
Anti-fascists oppose Free Tommy protest


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