Over 50 women and twice as many men came to Downing Street to protest against David Cameron calling the EDL (English Defense League), sick last month. There was also a UAF (Unite Against Fascism), counter demonstration. London, UK. 8th October 2011
More than fifty women and two or three times as many men from the EDL came to Downing Street today to protest against David Cameron's attack on the EDL last month where he called the EDL sick. There they confronted a UAF counter-demonstration before marching to Parliament.
David Cameron in the House of Commons said "Deprecating the EDL and all they stand for and their attempt to somehow say they are going to restore order is, I’ve described some parts of our society as sick and there is none sicker than the EDL."
It was a statement that greatly upset the EDL, and the women's section, known as the 'Angels' launched an online petition with the title 'EDL Angels are not sick'. In it they describe themselves as "wives, mothers, aunts, grandmothers etc" and ask:
"Is it sick to care for your country and the downward spiral that it is on? Is it sick to protest at the two tier system that runs in our Country? Is it sick to protest over Child Grooming of which the majority is carried out by Muslim gangs? Is it sick to protest over the murder of Charlene Downes? Is it sick to protest about religious courts in our Country and the futile attempts by some to bring 'Sharia Controlled Zones' into our Country?"
So far the petition has attracted 780 signatures on the web site (though at least one person has signed it five times and a quite a few including Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun are clearly spoofs), and the EDL Angels organised a protest today to hand with the intention of handing it in at Downing St, although I did not see them do so. One of the most recent comments on the petition today claims to be from a David Cameron who writes "Girls! You FORGOT the petition.;-)"
They came along from outside the Red Lion in Parliament Street where they had gathered and into the pen the police had provided for them opposite Downing St. Some 50 yards up the road was another pen in which around a hundred people, mainly women, had answered the call of the UAF to oppose their protest. The two groups shouted at each other for around half an hour, with the EDL (and the men were rather more vocal) telling the UAF that they were not English and the UAF calling the EDL racists and suggesting they follow the example of Adolf Hitler.
Some of the EDL women wore t-shirts with the message 'EDL Angels not racist not sick and not silent' and the message was repeated on a large placard. Others carried placards with the heading 'English Defence League Angels' and a reproduction of a 'One Law for All' placard stating 'Sharia Law Discriminates Against Women'. There were also a few of the usual EDL flags and banners based on the St George's Cross and another placard with John Bull stating 'If You Won't Defend Your Rights, Don't Complain When you Lose Them.' One woman came in a burkha.
As some of the men came along towards the pen there was a little of the anti-Muslim chanting that I've heard at other EDL events, including one group who walked along singing "Allah is a ***** ", but I heard little of this later in the protest, which was generally well-behaved. I didn't see exactly what happened when one woman wearing Union Jack ear-rings approached the UAF protesters, but she was led away struggling by police.
Among those who came to protest against the EDL probably all are also opposed to female genital mutilation, and against the repression of women in some Muslim countries. Most too - and most Muslims - are against any imposition of Sharia Law and certainly against 'Sharia Zones' and the other ludicrous activities of fringe extremist groups such as Muslims Against Crusades. What unites the UAF, as its name states, is the opposition to fascists and fascism and racism in any shape or form. Among those groups demonstrating with the UAF were Feminist Fightback, Mothers March, Women of Colour, PCS union, Socialist Workers and London Met Uni Feminists.
The Casuals United Blog had issued a warning to EDL members that the Muslim Defence League (MDL) had issued a threat that they were intending to "to hunt OUR ANGELS AND SMALL GROUPS OF EDL." As they said (rather more graphically) there is not really an MDL, but they also suggested that there was "a demo George Galloway has arranged it is a Palestine Demo" taking place in Trafalgar Square. Of course it wasn't a "Palestine Demo" but a Stop The War/CND/MAB protest, and although Galloway did speak he was not the organiser. I talked to someone later in the day at another event from the MDL who denied any knowledge of a threat being issued, and had not even heard of the rumour.
After around half an hour of shouting and pointing at the UAF, the EDL formed up into a march, led by the 'Angels' with the men following a short distance behind, with EDL stewards and police keeping good order, and set off for Parliament. As I was taking pictures of them outside the Houses of Parliament one of the stewards tried to move me away from the protest, and called on the police for help. They told him that I had a right to be there, and I told the steward that we lived in a free country and that it was important to uphold the freedom of the press. I had earlier had no problems photographing the 'Angels' (and had complied with some more reasonable requests by the chief steward) and have no idea why that particular steward took against me, but I have previously been named and threatened by EDL members for accurately reporting their events. I left to go elsewhere as the EDL Angels rally was starting outside Parliament.
One group of women taking part in the counter-demonstration told me that they had been attacked by a group of male EDL supporters on their way to the protest for carrying an anti-EDL placard. Police stepped in and prevented anything further developing.
Earlier in the day I had spent some time reading comments on several online EDL forums and screenshots from them published on anti-racist web sites. Although the official EDL line is that they are only against extremists and not anti-Muslim and not racist and some of those involved may well espouse this point of view, it would appear that many of those who support the EDL have very different views. A week or so ago a damning academic study of the EDL and their activities was released by Dr Matthew Feldman and Dr Paul Jackson at Northampton University’s Radicalism and New Media Research Group.