Socialist Worker

Luton: stop the English Defence League where it started

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2236

United: anti-racist protesters in Tower Hamlets, east London last year  (Pic: Smallman )

United: anti-racist protesters in Tower Hamlets, east London last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

On Saturday 5 February, the racist English Defence League (EDL) is going back to where it all began for the group—Luton.

The EDL was formed in the town in March 2009, using the excuse that a small group of Islamists had protested against a soldiers’ homecoming parade.

In April and May, racists charged through the streets as the EDL poured hundreds of thugs into Bury Park, the heart of the Asian community.

The EDL, and its sister organisations in Wales and Scotland, say it exists only to oppose “extremist Islam”.

But in reality they are violent, racist organisations with football hooligans and fascists at their core—and which target all Muslims and Asian people.

Nazi British National Party (BNP) members Chris Renton and Davy Cooling were involved in setting up the EDL—Renton set up the national website, and Cooling the Luton site.

Members of fascist groups have been seen on most EDL protests—there have been close to 40 protests so far. And, all have involved violence.


EDL supporters have been photographed making Nazi salutes and filmed chanting “Fuck off Pakis” and “Muslim scum off our streets”.

In Preston last year EDL supporters chanted, “Burn a mosque”.

Days later there was an attempted arson attack on a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent which police are treating as racist.

And EDL members have also attacked left wing and anti‑fascist meetings.

Welsh Defence League members attacked a May Day demonstration last year.

The EDL has denounced trade unionists and striking British Airways cabin crew.

EDL founder Tommy Robinson recently described student protesters as “dirty, stinking layabouts” and threatened to attack future protests.

But the EDL has not been allowed to rampage without opposition.

Soon after the Luton protests, EDL supporters went to Birmingham. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) activists fought for unity with the Muslim community to confront the racists. Since then the EDL has not marched unopposed.

The counter-protest in Tower Hamlets, east London, in June last year, marked a turning point.

UAF activists joined with others to form East End United, and mobilised a magnificent 5,000 people. The EDL cancelled its march—but anti-racists took to the streets anyway.

The police, the state, and even some anti-fascist organisations argue that confronting the EDL makes matters worse.

But forcing Muslim communites to cower in their homes while racists are on the streets is just want the EDL want.

Recently, their protests have been met by both town centre UAF counter-protests and by Muslims gathering in their local areas to drive them back.


Luton can be another marker against the EDL.

UAF activists have been working with trade unionists and local Muslims to build a protest against the EDL in the town’s St George’s Square—as well as a defence of the Muslim community in Bury Park.

Every trades council in the region, and many national and local trade union branches, have signed up to support these demonstrations.

The police want to allow the EDL to hold its racist rally in the square, but activists are refusing to concede it. Everyone should get to Luton on 5 February—and help drive the EDL off the streets.

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Tue 25 Jan 2011, 18:35 GMT
Issue No. 2236
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