A demonstration in Thatcham town centre by English Defence League members and supporters has been condemned as “vigilantism”.
Newbury MP Richard Benyon condemned the incident at the weekend, saying: “In this country we don’t operate by the rule of the mob”. Meanwhile, shopkeepers and civic leaders told the far right organisation to “stay away from our town”.
For weeks, EDL members are said to have been leafleting and fly-posting in Thatcham. Matters came to a head last Friday evening when a group of EDL members and supporters, some claiming to hail from Bournemouth and Southampton, descended on Thatcham town centre.
The issue over which the EDL has been campaigning is the supposed presence of “Muslim grooming gangs” in Thatcham – where there are a mere 180 Muslims, amounting to 0.7% of a population of 25,267. An EDL member named Brian Barnes was convicted of using threatening words and behaviour for shouting drunken abuse during an earlier demonstration in Thatcham in October.
Bournemouth EDL have posted a video of the latest protest, organised by the Royal Berkshire division, during which they gathered outside a kebab van that the EDL claims has been responsible for the sexual exploitation of young girls and bawled “paedo kebabs off our streets” at passers-by. Shortly after last October’s EDL protest a kebab van in Thatcham was attacked by two masked men who shouted racist abuse and threw a brick at the young man working there.
The fact that nobody has been arrested over the alleged grooming offences would suggest that evidence to back up the EDL’s claim is lacking. For the EDL, of course, the authorities’ failure to accept their accusation only confirms that “the police are more interested in looking after the protected ones (Muslims…..)”.
Last year a Thatcham EDL member, Rory Rowbottom, was jailed for 3 months for throwing a pig’s head at a mosque in Newbury. Unsurprisingly, Rowbottom has been centrally involved in the “anti-paedophile” campaign.
Town says ‘there’s no place for EDL here’
MP and civic leaders condemn ‘intimidating’ weekend gathering in town centre
By John Garvey
Newbury Weekly News, 6 March 2014
A DEMONSTRATION in Thatcham town centre by English Defence League members and supporters has been condemned as “vigilantism”. Newbury MP Richard Benyon condemned the incident at the weekend, saying: “In this country we don’t operate by the rule of the mob”.
Meanwhile, shopkeepers and civic leaders told the far right organisation to “stay away from our town”.
For weeks, EDL members are said to have been leafleting and fly-posting in Thatcham. Matters came to a head last Friday evening when a group of EDL members and supporters, some claiming to hail from Bournemouth and Southampton, descended on Thatcham town centre. Their stated aim was to drive a particular trader, who they accuse of serious offences, from the town.
There was a tense stand-off between chanting demonstrators – one wearing a pig mask – and police, who deployed at least two vans and several police cars at the scene.
Mr Benyon said: “I utterly deplore this kind of action. The way to deal with any allegations is through the police and the judicial process. In this country we don’t operate by the rule of the mob. The EDL has no place in a community like West Berkshire, or anywhere else, for that matter.”
The prospective parliamenary candidate for the West Berkshire Liberal Democrats, Judith Bunting, said: “I’ve been shocked by the demonstration and intimidating behaviour seen in Thatcham this week. Using tactics of intimidation that may cause alarm and distress is something I reject. Any serious allegations should be investigated by the police – they are the right people to do it.”
Thatcham Chamber of Commerce chairman Jeremy Cottam said: “They’ve been sticking up posters and handing out leaflets in Thatcham for weeks now. They’re not welcome here. It’s intimidating to people who want to have a quiet drink, go shopping, or get a take-away.”
Thatcham Town Council leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said: “There’s no place for the EDL in our town. These were all people, some from as far away as Bournemouth, here to make trouble.” The trader who was targeted has not been seen at his place of business since the incident. Mr Dillon said: “It’s outrageous if someone is unable to go about their lawful business because of these creeps.”
Deputy leader of Newbury Town Council, Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, who is also a director of equality campaigners West Berkshire Forum, said: “I wish to condemn the actions of the EDL actioning a ‘flash demo’ in Thatcham.” He said that, in his opinion, the actions of those at the gathering on Friday “could lead to further victimisation of other people in the community”.
Spokesman for Thames Valley Police, James Williams, said officers “responded to a gathering of between 15 and 20 people in The Broadway, Thatcham town centre on Friday night. Officers attended, although this did not appear to be a formal demonstration by the EDL, but a gathering of individuals. However, at least one member of the group has previously indicated they are a member of the EDL.
“The police will work with the local community in Thatcham to provide reassurance and to ensure that there is no threat to any local residents, or businesses.”