“A commander, aided by lieutenants and foot soldiers.” That is how the hierarchy of an English Defence League demonstration was described to a court.
Judge Norman Wright heard how a day of random protests in Lancashire on July 2 last year turned violent.
Two Chorley men and a Longridge man are among those who will be sentenced following a protest in Brierfield, where 40% of the population is Asian. Paul Blundell, 45, of Lee Street, Longridge, Graham Smith, 48, of Draperfeld, Chorley, and Martin Corner, 31, of Corporation Street, Chorley, admitted threatening behaviour.
The man deemed “commander” of the group – Bernard Holmes – who co-ordinated the protests was not present at the opening of the sentencing of the defendants at Preston Crown Court yesterday after being admitted to hospital with suspected pancreatitis.
Emma Kehoe, prosecuting, said members and supporters of the EDL took part in flash protests in various towns without informing police. She said: “For a short time on July 2 some members and supporters were to become violent, aggressive and unlawful.”
She said police saw a group of 30 to 40 gather on a pub car park in Blackburn. Some visited an ASDA store in Accrington to protest at selling and labelling of Halal meat, before making their way to Simonstone to deliver a letter to MEP Sajjad Karim’s home.
Miss Kehoe said: “The large group gathered in his driveway and outside his home. Mr Karim saw four to five beckoning him to come outside. Whilst police did not see any aggression, Mr Karim felt those outside his house stared at him with hostility.
“His wife described the group as thugs who glared through the window. But the Crown could not be certain any of the people at the window were any of these defendants.”
Around 36 EDL supporters, including the defendants, later made their way to Brierfield. Miss Kehoe added: “Some were chanting abuse and racist words. Some were blocking the roads.”
The court heard a group of Asian people gathered to retaliate. During the chaos an Asian man was run over – though not by these defendants – and a 17 year old was assaulted.
Leanne Thornton, 26, of Todmorden, John English, 24, of Blackburn, Jordan Lonsdale 20, of Ribble Lane, Clitheroe, and Paul Jackson, 41, of Blackburn, admitted threatening behaviour. Four men admitted violent disorder – Holmes, 26, Leonard Hawley, 47, David Wilson, 47, all Blackburn, and Jason Smith, 43, of Burnley.
Chorley car manufacturer Smith claims he was protesting at the labelling of Halal meat, saying he had “strong Christian ethics”. Blundell had sought to distance himself from the EDL’s activities in future, his defence lawyer said.
Sentencing has been adjourned until Thursday.
Update: See also “EDL were on flashmob tour of East Lancs when violence flared”, This is Lancashire, 26 May 2012