Saturday 24 June 2017

Updated – EDL going nowhere fast, but no room for complacency

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A small and pathetic group of fascists, the English Defence League, were barely able to mobilise in central London, today. Numbering just 50, their national mobilisation was countered by anti fascists from UAF, trade unionists and people from the nearly ‘Womens’ March’.

This is the latest tiny turnout for whats left of the fascist group, led by a man who openly mocked the attack on Muslims at Finsbury Park mosque.They would have fitted on a London bus, with spare seats. Following their recent debacle in Liverpool, where they were humilated by over 1000 anti fascists, this reinforces their pitiful state. Their farce of a march was only able to happen due to large numbers of police who ‘facilitated’ the EDL The EDL did not march on Parliament as they wanted and left in low spirits.

This and the small numbers for Britain First in Birmingham today, show that despite the massive rise in Islamophobia, both fascist marches failed to capitalise on such racism. Crucially too, both the EDL and Britain First, despite their efforts, were unable to make proper links with the so called Football Lads Alliance (FLA), supposed  ‘march against extremism’, also in London, today.

                                          Football Lads Alliance

With the partial demise of UKIP, alongside increasing Islamophobia, there has been a partial revival in racist, populist groups. The FLA event, is a clearly worrying sign of how far right elements try to pull less hardcore racists into much ‘harder’, racism, around and following the recent, terrorist incidents. Reports vary, but several thousand were around the FLA event. This was organised by a number of football firms coming together in partial ‘truces'; football hooligans from clubs such as Leeds, Portsmouth, Notts Forest, Leicester, and some London clubs, joined others from Middlesbrough and elsewhere.

 

Meeting points at pubs were arranged across London eg Stratford for West Ham fans, London Bridge for Millwall fans and so on. There were large turnouts from several London clubs, a precondition for attending was for no club colours to be worn, to lessen any potential for trouble. A danger is that young and not so young,  fans can be drawn into such affairs, and  fall prey to platform speakers’ Islamophobic agendas.

 

UAF can reveal that a key organiser of the FLA march has at least one Facebook ‘friend’, Jag Singh, who still claims to be part of the fascist English Defence League’s, ‘Sikh Division’. The central figure last Saturday is known for his connections to hooliganism. Another organiser was “Jack Dawkins”, a ‘friend’ of Tommy Robinson.

 

One of the chief admins on the Football Lads Alliance site is a Gerry Farr. He lists among friends on social media, a Carolan Robertson. Robertson has been pictured with the fascist Britain First, who only recently invited a notorious, anti Semitic priest to a march in Birmingham. The Priest was turned back at Stansted airport. Robertson also heavily promotes ex EDL thug, Tommy Robinson, on Robertson’s Rebel Media channel. Such links say something about who is behind the FLA and their worldview.

Several Spurs football hooligans are clearly at the centre of the FLA. The group’s main organiser, John Meighan,  claims the FLA want to organise in a ‘non violent’ and ‘non racist’ manner. Given the numerous convictions and connections of several involved in the FLA, this is fanciful. Racist comments persist on the FLA closed group Facebook and a number of people on it express support for far right groups.

 

An argument internally has surfaced concerning whether a legal or more street orientated approach, is necessary. Meighan talks of broadening out the group, to presumably include women and others under names such as Football Lads Alliance/Football Family Alliance. This, if it transpired, would be a move to make the FLA more cosmetically appealing. However, were it to happen, it  could create friction with many who value a ‘firm focused’ approach, who made up most of Saturday’s march.

 

Last Saturday, a Sikh, Mohan Singh, spoke at the FLA  march. Singh was among speakers at Tommy Robinson’s recent, violent  Manchester march. Toni Bugle also got a platform at the FLA event. She stood for the ex BNP, splinter group, the English Democrats, in the 2016 election for the seat of Police and Crime Commissioner, in Bedfordshire. She founded the Islamophobic Mothers against Radical Islam (MARIAs).

 

Tommy Robinson was filmed at Ascot on the same day as last Saturday’s march, physically attacking a man. Robinson claimed he was “gutted” at missing the FLA demonstration. He clearly relishes the prospect of such a group being a part of his own project. There are similarities with how the United Peoples of Luton marches in the summer of 2009 in Luton, became the EDL. There, ex BNP members like Robinson. were the key link in the chain and cemented different football hooligan groups. Then too, formally, as with the FLA, fascist groups such as the National Front were asked to stay away, but the latter’s supporters were visible on early EDL marches, along with other fascists.

 

Ex EDL youth leader, Joel Titus was on the march, as were others from the dwindling, BNP. Fascist individuals were not open about their politics but clearly may sense fresh opportunities. They may not find it so straightforward. When the fascist group Combat 18 tried to recruit at  some clubs, in the early 19990s, they were often turned away. Other hooligans might have had some sympathy for their views, but Combat 18’s links to the Chelsea firm, the Headhunters, were viewed with suspicion and unease,

 

The FLA initiative follows just after the Manchester demonstration led by Tommy Robinson, ex EDL leader, which saw over 1000 racists and some open fascists, incite Islamophobia and attack Sikhs who were doing voluntary work. Though Robinson’s event was countered by anti fascists and anti racists, clearly a number of thugs, associated with football firms, look to target Muslims. There are inbuilt tensions to such hooligan alliances and time will tell concerning this inflammatory development.

 

It’s important to note that racist populists and the fascists response has been blunted by the mass support for Finsbury Park mosque, after last week’s attack. The vigils which Jeremy Corbyn spoke at, at the mosque, shows the potential to break up such racist alliances. Thus, there is no room for complacency or armchair commentary.

 

One key problem of certain analysis concerning ‘extremism’ is that it fails to thoroughly challenge Islamophobia and allows racists and the far right, room to manoeuvre. Now is the time to organise a movement against racists and fascists through Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism.


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