English Defence League to meet in Bradford for first rally since leader quit

First published by The Guardian, 11th October 2013

Bradford is bracing itself for a demonstration by the English Defence League on Saturday despite the event being thrown into confusion after the shock resignation of the group’s leader.
The “national rally” was planned long before Tommy Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – announced this week he was leaving with the help of the Muslim-run counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam Foundation, saying the EDL had become too extreme and ineffectual.Various groups from the north of England are expected to attend, including the fascist National Front, Casuals United, March for England and the North-West Infidels – the latter greatly diminished after six of the group’s key members were sent to prison last month after being found guilty ofviolent disorder at an anti-fascist benefit gig in Liverpool.
According to the official EDL website, the static demonstration aims to draw attention to issues including child sexual exploitation among the Muslim community.Police said the vast majority of Bradfordians were deeply unhappy about the EDL coming to town. “We know that local people do not want their city to be used by the EDL and counter-protest groups as a venue for demonstrations,” said a spokesman for West Yorkshire police.

Bradford MPs George Galloway and Gerry Sutcliffe last month called on the chief constable of West Yorkshire police to “see sense and move to stop these scum polluting our streets”.
A ban was impossible,the police said: “We understand that some people may have an expectation that the police or council should ban the demonstrations. We don’t have any legal powers to do this. We therefore have to plan for them in order to ensure public safety for everyone.”.

“We are a united city and the EDL are not welcome in Bradford,” said Ratna Lachman, part of a group called Bradford Women for Peace, which held a vigil in the city’s Centenary Square on Friday along with the Muslim Women’s Council, Bradford Council for Mosques, anti -fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate and local trade union groups. The 200-strong group sang a specially written peace song and tied 7.5km of green ribbon around the city as they made their opposition to the EDL clear.

“The green is a symbol of spring, of new beginnings, of the earth, of women coming together… green is associated with Islam and we chose green to stand behind Muslims in Bradford,” said Lachman.
On Friday Simon Atkin, chief superintendent at West Yorkshire police, answered questions from congregations at mosques in the city as part of what the force dubbed “continuous reassurance and engagement”.

Police said they did not know how many EDL supporters were likely to attend but hundreds of officers were available to police the event.
The EDL are due to arrive on coaches and buses in Bradford’s Interchange station from about 11am and will be kettled in an area on adjacent Bridge Street.

A large counter protest around the corner at Bradford Urban Gardens is expected from Unite Against Fascism and other groups.The agenda for the EDL’s rally was unclear, said Matthew Collins from Hope Not Hate. He claimed some EDL supporters had suggested BNP leader Nick Griffin might speak in Robinson’s place.Liz Firth, one of the founders of Bradford Women For Peace, said many people in the city accepted the democratic right to protest but resented the cost of policing any EDL action. “Bradford is really struggling with the cuts and we really don’t have the money to spend on this sort of thing,” she said at Friday’s peace vigil.

The cost of policing the event will not be known until after the event, but similar rallies have left police with a bill for up to £800,000.
He predicted the EDL would leave a “trial of violence and destruction” and behave like the thugs even Robinson seems to think they have now become.
“Saturday will be a measure of whether the EDL is still a viable organisation post-Tommy Robinson,” said Lachman.

Gary Hastings, also known as Gary Moon (though neither are his real name) runs the anti-EDL website EDL News. He said he expected a relatively strong turnout in Bradford – if only because so many EDL activists had already paid for their coach and train tickets before they learned Robinson had quit.

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