A rightwing group which promised a summer of peaceful demonstrations against British Islamic extremists was in disarray today after its first significant protest ended in violence and 35 arrests.
The English Defence League staged a march near the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham this weekend but its small band of supporters was drastically outnumbered by anti-fascist campaigners and riot police. The protest ended in violent skirmishes and running battles through the city’s busy shopping streets on Saturday evening.
Members of the League resorted to bitter in-fighting today as supporters labelled the organisers “ridiculous” and the event a “shambles”. Despite efforts to promote the event, fewer than 100 were thought to have gathered. Left-wing groups including Unite Against Fascism were alerted to the march and were able to organise a counter demonstration.
One member of the League’s online forum, registered as Adder, wrote: “I support you guys but yesterday was a shambles and you made us English look like an embarrassment. What exactly happened to supposed ‘In the high hundreds’ who were supposed to turn up? I saw the video and it seemed like there was barely 70 of you.” Neil Edy, another member of the website, said: “I went to the march … the turn out to the event wasnt good enuf only a few of us were there supporting the cause.”
Despite the failure of the first large event, the League insists it will continue to hold demonstrations. Comments on the group’s website, and the affiliated football hooliganism site Casuals United said that the next one would be bigger. One message on the Casuals United site read: “We will arrange it via the Inner Circles secret forums, so we will arrive unnanounced and neither the police or the scum will know any details.”
Update: See also the Guardian, 11 August 2009