Friday, 5 March 2010

It's like a jungle sometimes - a day in Westminster

I've had a heavy day covering the English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in Westminster. I got down there at 12.30 by which time anti-fascist demonstrators had set up a small roadblock. This was quite quickly removed by the police using a variety of tactics - though, mercifully, they never resorted to using riot police.

Other than that, however, we saw the whole lot of police kit on display today: dogs, horses, and, the first time I've ever seen it, two London buses - no.s 148 and 24 - to process and take away arrested anti-fascist demonstrators! I wonder whether they were just hired from the bus company for the day, and what the drivers made of it - I did try asking one of them through his cab window, but he just shrugged sheepishly.

Once the roadblock was cleared, the EDL, who had been assembling outside (and inside!) Tate Britain for several hours, and had a fair amount of booze inside them, were allowed up the road to Westminster. They demonstrated on College Green, about 500 of them, looking, for the most part, like a gang of football hooligans.

They were there, ostensibly, to defend Dutch politician Geert Wilders' right to show his anti-Islam film 'Fitna' in Parliament. (Wilders was the guest of Baroness Cox and UKIP's Lord Pearson.)

For myself, I think Wilders is paranoid about Islam and whips up hatred against Muslims, but I don't really hold with calling for the state to ban him. For that matter, I don't really hold with calling for the state to ban EDL marches. I just think that more of us who dislike what they stand for should hit the streets when they are in town.

If everyone who nominally dislikes them and could get a day off work (it's not that difficult) had turned up in Westminster today, the EDL would have been massively outnumbered and might have thought twice about exercising their 'freedom of speech'.

I got some mobile phone pics of the police breaking up the blockade, but none of the EDL because my phone had packed up by then! However, the press pack really only turned up on the scene in numbers once the EDL did, so you will have plenty of pictures of their angry, snarling faces (the EDL, not the press pack) in your newspapers tomorrow.

My pictures are of the bit that was less well covered. I've included a couple here. Plus a link to a Grandmaster Flash song from 1983! It's a good antidote to today's events!

1 comment:

Rog T said...


I was interested in your comments re banning the English Defence League. If they only spouted nonsense and held badly attended rallies I'd agree with you 100%. Sadly the supporters of these groups bash people up, because of the colour of their skin.

I was reminded by an Asian schoolfriend of an incident 30 years ago, where he was being bullied by an NF supporting gang at the school. At the time, I was in Rock Against Racism and intervened and explained the error of their ways to the bullies.

My friend told me that at the time, he'd been bullied by this gang for six months and had been physically sick on occasion with fear. His life had been made hell and he was at the point of changing school. At the time I'd not even realised the effect it had on him, I'd just seen him being picked on & racially abused. I only learned recently.

Far right groups stock in trade is intimidation. The whole purpose of these rallys is to intimidate local people who are a different colour.

I don't want to see any of my friends be bullied or intimidated by anyone. Ever. If that means banning the EDL, so be it.