The defiance shown by the people of Bury Park on Saturday was inspiring. The EDL has particularly targeted this multi-racial area.
People were nervous in the main shopping street, Dunstable Road, on Saturday morning. At 10am there were more police than shoppers out.
Stewards from the community centre handed out leaflets that read, “Stand for Luton—against the EDL.”
Just after noon a cry went out that the EDL was marching into the area. Suddenly the street was filled with men coming out to defend the mosque.
It was a false alarm, but the atmosphere changed completely. Around 1,500 men were now occupying Dunstable Road, determined to defend their area.
The crowd had feared about 100 UAF supporters marching to join them were racists, but once they realised their mistake they dispersed along the road.
However, the police refused to allow the marchers through. A stand off began.
At first people were very tense—but as the hours passed a carnival atmosphere developed.
Groups of people debated everything from the chances of the EDL coming, to David Cameron's speech or what was happening in Egypt.
One young protester asked me, 'Did you see Tommy Robinson on Newsnight? My six year old niece knows more about the world than him. And they let him spout that ignorance.'
An older man, Jamshed, said, “The police told Asians to stay on this side and don’t go in to town. Where is the EDL from? How come it can be in the centre of our town and we are banned?”
The police finally gave in and allowed the UAF march through at 3.20pm. It was met with clapping and cheers.
An hour later stewards asked people to stop standing in the road so that traffic could pass through again, announcing that the EDL had left Luton. Many protesters were unhappy with this because they feared EDL gangs might still attack the area.
As the demonstration came to an end the atmosphere was relieved and happy.
Atif said, “I went to the protest against the EDL at Harrow in 2009. It was really good—big and peaceful. But when I got home and watched TV they presented it like it was World War Three.
“That made me think it wasn’t worth coming out. The EDL has got away with its ignorance again and again. So we had to stand up.”
The level of vigilance was right. Though the EDL didn’t manage to openly march to Bury Park, late on Saturday night two houses in the area had windows smashed and “EDL” painted on the front doors.
One house belonged to a Muslim family and the other to Christians.