Even before yesterday’s English Defence League anti-Islam demonstration and the counter-protest had begun, things were getting busy behind the scenes. There were a couple of arrests on Friday night for damage to a wall (which we take to be the police description of graffiti) and, more disturbingly, West Midlands Police said ‘some’ arrests had been made overnight. The number of arrests and whether those arrested were pro or anti-EDL has not been announced.
A further three people were arrested today on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon. Two of them were also arrested for possessing a Class A drug. These all seem to have been EDL.
As the coaches arrived at Dudley and the EDL group swelled to around a thousand, there were chants of ‘Who the fuck is Allah?’ – pretty well giving the lie (again) to the EDL’s oft-repeated statement that they are not anti-Islam. Just to continue the same point, it’s reported that the EDL was energised by songs such as ‘England Belongs to Me’.
It didn’t take long for violence to erupt, with the EDL throwing bottles and coins at photographers, then breaking down police barriers to change the announced ‘static’ demo into a march. As the EDL was kept well away from the anti-EDL protestors, the EDL started to fight itself and the police, with sporadic fights breaking out at the head of the march between the EDL crowd and its own stewards. If they weren’t such a bunch of violent thugs, you’d have to laugh.
The anti-EDL rally started the day peacefully, with music and rousing speeches from various anti-fascist campaigners, trade unionists and leaders of faith groups, among them David Walker, Bishop of Dudley, Khushid Ahmed, chair of Dudley Muslim Association, Steve Bell, Communication Workers Union, Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism, Sheera Johal, Indian Workers Association and Jim Warner, Dudley Trades Council.
Towards the end of the day, some EDL members managed to break away from the main demo and made their way towards the anti-EDL rally, pausing only to throw the odd missile at the police. Order was just about maintained, though a fair number of thugs managed to duck out and into the city centre, presumably in need of more booze at Wetherspoons (who seem to be sponsoring the EDL’s demonstrations/piss-ups around the country).
Local reporters estimated the anti-EDL rally as around a thousand strong – not too shabby for a Bank Holiday weekend.
As is usual when the EDL comes to visit, the main sufferers are the people of the home town. Dudley was variously described as deserted, boarded-up and ‘a ghost town’ for the day – the residents presumably mindful of the damage inflicted by the thugs of the EDL in other towns, and staying away on what should have been one of the busier shopping days of the year.
Quite why these hooligans and thugs are allowed to destroy business and create havoc by descending on random towns every other Saturday is beyond me but things could have been worse. At least nobody was stabbed by the EDL (as far as we know) this time.