Bristol EDL division denounces the jailing of its members Ben Banfield and Les Silk
Last week the Bristol Post reported that police were investigating threats, posted on the Facebook page of the English Defence League’s Bristol division, to burn down a building that a local Muslim association is proposing to convert into a mosque.
Chelsea White of Bristol EDL was quoted as indignantly denying that their members had anything to do with it. “A lot of people claim to be EDL without ever having attended a meeting or demonstration”, she told the Post. “Comments like those you are referring to also upset real members, as it reflects on us.”
As we have pointed out, although the EDL in fact has no formal membership the individuals who posted the inflammatory comments on Bristol division’s Facebook page all have links to the organisation, and their calls for violence undoubtedly reflect the views of many of its supporters. Indeed, one of the comments calling for an arson attack on the proposed mosque was “liked” by EDL Bristol division itself.
As for the “real members” of Bristol EDL who attend demonstrations and according to Chelsea White find threats of violence upsetting, this week two of them have been jailed for their part in a riot that took place during an EDL protest in Walsall last year – in the course of which police were pushed, punched and kicked by a mob who threw missiles including bricks, bottles, coins and broken wood from street furniture and pub tables.
On Monday, Bristol EDL member Les Silk was convicted of violent disorder – after the court rejected his defence that he was not participating in the assault on the police but merely “trying to protect a child that had fallen over” – and was given a 15 month prison sentence. Yesterday Ben Banfield, another member of Bristol EDL, was jailed for 20 months having been convicted of the same offence. The court was told that he kicked out and spat at officers and threw missiles. In passing sentence, the judge said that Banfield was “at the forefront and never far from trouble”.
It’s interesting, though, that whenever EDL members are up in court accused of a crime, they invariably claim that they have left the organisation. Silk’s lawyer told the court that since the Walsall demonstration his client had “ceased to be a member of the EDL”.
Yet, as recently as October, when “Tommy Robinson” and Kevin Carroll announced their resignation from the EDL leadership, and Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz declared that the movement had been “decapitated”, Silk defiantly reaffirmed his commitment to the organisation. “Decapitated we are not”, he wrote on Bristol division’s Facebook page, “the edl to thousands of patriots is the only main stream street movement of its day … we will never surrender.”
Only last Friday, on the eve of his appearance in court and in evident anticipation of receiving a prison sentence, Silk posted a farewell to his fellow EDL thugs in Bristol, declaring: “had some good times with this division keep up the fight people.” So if Silk has “ceased to be a member of the EDL”, you can only conclude that he tendered his resignation last weekend.
His comrades in Bristol EDL certainly made no secret of Silk’s membership. They were incandescent with outrage at the prison sentences imposed on him and Banfield, predictably denouncing this as an example of the “two tier system”.
Silk was hailed as “a true Patriot”, who had been persecuted “for standing for what he believes in and the ever happening Islam/sharia law threts..the grooming gangs” and had been “sent down for loving his country, his way of life.. the red white and blue”. The sentencing of Banfield, described as “another one of our patriots”, was taken as further proof that there is “no justice in this country”. Bristol EDL urged: “stand tall ben and les proud of you both nfse”.
The welcome conviction and jailing of Silk and Banfield was the result of admirably thorough work by West Midlands Police. Detective Chief Inspector Pete Dunn, who led the investigation, pointed out that this week’s court appearances by 32 EDL thugs were:
“the culmination of a detailed, painstaking investigation by a dedicated team of officers who were determined to bring those people to justice. We recovered many hours of CCTV, mobile phone and police footage which led to more than 450 hours of detective work to identify those responsible for bringing violence to the streets of Walsall. These court proceedings underline the fact that we will pursue people who commit crime in the West Midlands, no matter how long it takes, and bring them to justice.”
Perhaps Avon and Somerset Constabulary could make some effort to emulate the thoroughness of their colleagues in the West Midlands. Although they were notified a week ago of the calls on Bristol EDL’s Facebook page for arson attacks on the proposed mosque, the inflammatory comments have still not been removed.