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The English Defence League (EDL)

Updated on April 12, 2015

The English Defence League (shortened to EDL) are a group which have been getting a lot of publicity in the UK recently.  Who are the English Defence League, and what do they want?  This article will explain the origins of the EDL, various events in which they have been involved as well as the future of the group.


The English Defence League campaigns/protests against radical Islam and their perceptions that it is a growing threat to the traditional way of life in the UK.  The English Defence League say that radical Islam leads to terrorist acts such as the 9/11 and the 7/7 attacks in London as well as the EDL believing Islam is incompatible with many aspects of the western way of life including rights for women and homosexuals and democracy.


The English Defence League (EDL) formed in 2009.  The spark which caused this formation was a protest by Muslim's opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who protested at a homecoming parade for troops in Luton.  This event was captured on camera and many local residents were upset, as were the soldiers who took part in the parade.  This protest was involved a group of Muslim's from Luton who were part of several groups including the now outlawed Islam4UK led by Arjem Chaudry.

The EDL was formed, with many links originally being to supporters of Luton Town FC and a protest march against the protest was held which resulted in clashes between those who supported the English Defence League and those who were against it.  After this demonstration, the fans of Luton FC decided to join up with fans of other clubs around the UK to create a united response to the 'Islamic threat' as they saw it.  At this stage it was still quite a minor grouping, but when an 11 year old white boy was filmed being converted to Islam by a radical Muslim group in the centre of England's second largest city of Birmingham in June this proved to be the spark which fueled the belief amongst certain people that something needed to be done to counter-act this growing Islamic threat.  There have also been linked organisations called the Welsh Defence League (WDL) and Scottish Defence League (SDL) in Wales and Scotland respectively.  

The English Defence League were soon labelled as a far right/neo Nazi group and as a result groups such as Unite Against Facism (UAF) and the magazine Searchlight which is strongly against far right groups started to organise their supporters to protest against the EDL.  This led to their being three groups involved in the situation- the EDL themselves, Muslim groups such as Islam4UK and anti-facist groups such as Unite Against Facism.

Birmingham Protests

The first major protests by the English Defence League outside of Luton occurred on 8th August 2009.  This led to widespread fighting in the streets of Birmingham between members of the EDL and affiliated groups and those who were opposed to the group, primarily young local Asian men.  

There was another protest in Birmingham on the 5th September 2009.  Again there were many clashes between the English Defence League and Unite Against Facism, resulting in thousands of pounds worth of damage and 90 arrests with about half the arrested being linked to the EDL and the other half being linked to UAF. 

Machester Protest - 10th September 2009

The next protest by the English Defence League took place on 10th September 2009 in the English city of Manchester.  The police were more prepared for this than the Birmingham demonstrations and so were able to prevent most of the widespread fighting in the streets as occurred in Birmingham.  There were believed to be in excess of 500 English Defence League protesters at this event.  However they were outnumbered by those from Unite Against Facism who numbered over 1000.  Despite there being more people than at the Birmingham demos there were less arrests with only 44 being made.  However, there were 10 injuries, of which one was serious.  Overall though the police said it was largely a peaceful protest although this was possibly achieved at great expense through the use of many officers.

Nottingham Protest - 5th December 2009

On the 5th December 2009 there was a homecoming parade through the centre of Nottingham and so the English Defence League decided they would pay tribute to the troops as well as prevent any anti-war protests.  The prospect of the EDL rally led to UAF holding their own rally in response, which attracted 300 people which was slightly less than the estimated 500 who were siding with the EDL.  There ended up being 11 arrests at this protest which was again due to the large scale policing - in fact some estimates put the total spend at £1million.

Stoke on Trent Protest - 23rd January 2010

In terms of the number of people at the protest this was the biggest English Defence League rally yet.  There were approximately 1300 EDL supporters and 400 UAF supporters at this event.  The event passed off relatively peacefully as well, with 'only' 17 arrests.  Again though this was due to a large expenditure by the police forces to deal with the protest which came it at £200,000.  Despite many people hoping that in the new year there would be fewer protesters at each EDL in fact at this event in Stoke the opposite was true.  More worrying still for those opposed to what the EDL stand for there were less Unite Against Facism members than at previous EDL events although this could be put down to many factors including the smaller ethnic minority population around Stoke compared with the locations which held previous EDL rallies and the violence from both sides which had been seen at previous EDL rallies.

London Protest - 5th March 2010

This event was the first major English Defence League protest in the English capital of London and the first protest not on a weekend which resulted in less people from the EDL and the counter-demonstrators from UAF.  The event was chosen for this day and location to 'welcome' the anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders who was in the UK House of Lords to show his film which supposedly warns of the anti-western ideas of Muslims.  There were fewer protesters at this event, with approximately 500 hundred on each side, than were at the Stoke on Trent protest but this may be due to the fact that it was held during a weekday when many were probably at work.  In total there were 50 arrests for a variety of offences.

Bolton Protest - 20th March 2010

The Bolton protest was the largest protest involving the English Defence League yet, involving over 2000 people affiliated with the EDL and 1500 linked to UAF. There was a lot of preparation involved in this event from the authorities to try to ensure that it passed off as peacefully as possible. Firstly attempts were made to ban the protest but this isn't possible due to the UK's principle of freedom of speech, however the plan for the EDL to hold a march was banned and so a static demonstration had to be held instead. Following on from this the council and police decided to set up fenced off protesting areas in the main square and deploy a large number of resources including police officers, the police helicopter, police horses and police dogs to try and minimise the disturbance. This closing down of the centre of Bolton led to local businesses losing an estimated £3 million of takings. However there was less of the large scale disturbances as seen at previous events. There were 73 arrests in total, of which at least 54 were from the UAF side and 17 from the EDL side.

About this article

The author of this article has created it with the sole purpose of allowing people to get an idea of the English Defence League.  Believing in independent thought, the author has deliberately avoided any personal opinions and has as such provided links to the sources of information.  In addition, to try and avoid the information source being biased information has come from recognised media or governmental sources in the UK (although there may still be some bias due to the individual political viewpoints of the media groups/journalists).  If you spot any factual inaccuracies (with a link to a reputable source) or have any feedback on the EDL please use the comments box below.


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    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 4 years ago from Bristol

      SMZClark and Corneliusgrey, thanks for taking the time to comment. I suppose your personal views are a microcosm of the nationwide debate and why the EDL is so controversial.

    • corneliusgrey profile image

      corneliusgrey 6 years ago from UK

      Its nothing to do with fascist vs anti fascist or Nazi Germany. You are totally digressing. WAKE UP AND LOOK AROUND YOU--- WHAT IS HAPPENING IN BRITAIN'S CITIES, and they don't talk about it on the BBC

      Ignorance is DANGEROUS.

      I tell you what is dangerous too: ISLAMIPHOBIA.

      -a phenomena that has always lingered.

      Though the corporate media has stirred up these feelings of hate and paranoia towards the islamic community, in the wake of 9/11 and 7/7.

      It happened after the IRA bombings. IGNORANT people helping to alienate whole communities, brainwashed by the media.

      All this due to the need to scapegoat somebody after some sick terrorists commit atrocities

      Now whole communities are divided scared of each other. Paranoid and volatile feelings exist.

      Like, i was on the bus the other day for instance and overheard a conversation between two young white lads, along the lines of this: ''i'm sick of all these paki's coming in our country, no wonder there are no jobs... They don't care about this country...they just want everyone to be muslim...terrorist'' etc. etc.

      (a sad thing to hear on a busy bus from British youth)

      There is an underlining fear/mistrust of the Islamic community in this country, possibly violent rascism at the extreme end of the scale.

      Don't get me wrong, many of the alienated Muslim youth feel the same toward the white population too. This is only human nature.

      and to (dave-exsquaddie)-''and the way they refuse to integrate but take over whole areas and cities pushing all others out''

      no wonder communities aren't integrating, because of these feelings of mistrust in the UK. Whilst these continue, the communities cut themselves off, dialogue ceases, and cultural integration remains stagnant too. And also you have to accept that people live in communities as a result of decades of urban planning to house immigrant peoples.


      your views just serve to reinforce what i'm trying to say. they represent some of the ignorant, xenophobic and paranoid feelings that are threatening this country.

      YOU do talk like a FASCIST even though you may not be one.

      You talk of Muslims conquering all, and taking over the U.K. with a majority (even though only 2.8million out of 70 million are muslim in this country).

      This is a paranoid conspiracy theory that eerily echoes how the Nazis thought about the jews. They created steriotypes of them, likening them to rats that bred and bred and sucked all of the resources out of nations.

      Its time you and others educated themselves.

      Stop being so moronic.

      Islamic people are lovely, peacefull people (just humans remember)

      ISLAMIPHOBIA must END!!! its very dangerous and is halting social progress

    • smzclark profile image

      smzclark 6 years ago from cheshire

      i am nuetral and not at all racist (gotta throw that in before i start). however, i do think that many are way too quick to judge on both sides. i see both sides: many muslims are here because they want to build a better life for themselves and their families, they can't be blamed for that. the edl (and many 'normal brits') are frustrated because some of these muslims are expecting the brits to cater to their way of life---if they want things here to change to their way, it's felt by many that they should go back to where they came from, i personally can understand that. we are not allowed to wear our hoods up when entering a shop and balaclavas are now illegal to be worn on the streets, yet burqas are's things like that which shouldn't be tolerated. it's almost like we are being discriminated against in our own country! that is where it's all going wrong. it is now considered offensive to wave our own flag in our own country! no civilians are to blame in my opinion. it is up to the BNP to adjust the law book...they are more concerned about their worldwide reputation than their own country. that's who the EDL should be expressing their frustrations with! nobody can be blamed for wanting a better life for themselves and that's what all these fights are about. i 100% agree that special allowances should not be made. saying that, it is not the asians who are making those special's the government!!!

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Werian that is a very in depth opinion of why you support the EDL and your own personal opinions and I hope it is useful to people reading this page to get an idea of what the EDL is about.

    • profile image

      Werian 7 years ago

      Groups such as the UAF,although they mean well,are actually behind the times with what they stand for!!,when i was young i was very anti fascist!!,i was against the national front!,i am very patriotic,and to me any group who preached hate towards people of different races or colours were an enemy to freedom and an insult to all those who died fighting to defend this country from the Nazi's and their evil ideology!!,but the world has changed and facism has changed as well!!!!,Hitler and the Nazi's ultimate goal was world domination and the oppression and destruction of anyone who did not share their beliefs or who were inferior!!!,

      this is exactly the same ideology as Islam!!!,at the moment they are conquering by changing the demographics of non islamic countries by higher birth rates than the indiginous people of these countries,it is a war of stealth!!!!,and although some muslim groups use violence through terrorism,the so called moderate muslims stay in the background and carry on growing towards their ultimate goal of becoming the majority and installing an islamic state!!,once this happens it will then lead to extreme violence to subdue the non muslim minoraty!,make no mistake,genocide is a real possibility!!,for this reason i support the EDL!,i am not racist or a fascist,and would be insulted to be called either!!,i have simply realised that fascism in the modern world has manifested in another form?,Islam!!!,younger anti fascists may not know that Hitler deployed Islamic SS divisions who perpetrated mass murder of Jews!!,it is time to realise that groups like the EDL are actually the modern day ant - fascists!!!

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Dave Ex-squaddie I can see your point especially when there are incidents such as in Luton and on 15th June 2010 in Barking where returning troops get abused by Muslim extremists.

    • profile image

      Dave Ex-squaddie. 8 years ago

      It was only a matter of time until something like this started. Don't forget the EDL was formed after a knee jerk reaction by Brits (black & white) who were disgusted by militant Muslims protesting against our boys and girls after they came back from risking and in some cases losing their lives. Yes a lot of people are sickened by the behavior of certain Muslims, not all, and the way they refuse to integrate but take over whole areas and cities pushing all others out. Bradford in Yorkshire is a prime example. Talk to the non Muslim inhabitants. Ask the locals their opinion. It will be much more vitriolic than mine. And no I am not EDL or BNP but I do understand why they were formed and why they have so many sympathizes.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      john james I cant comment on specific incidents as I wasn't there but maybe it was the case that people weren't aware of the missiles or that the edl breaking through barriers makes a better video than a few missiles being thrown. Alternatively I am sure that some may say it is a sign of a mass conspiracy against the English Defence League.

    • profile image

      john james 8 years ago

      why at the dudley, demo the only thing filmed was the edl breaking the barriers down, the asian yobs who threw missiles which sparked the reaction wasn't?

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for that link, I must admit I had already heard that news story, but other visitors to this page may find it interesting!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      Dunno how much interest you have in american similar, but this made yahoo front page news... a new domestic terrorist group that combines some kind of 'sect' Christianity and military-based. It caught my eye, because I have an ongoing interest in american fascist/racists generally.

      "...But while the name Hutaree may have a mysterious flavor, the plot its members were reportedly hatching was part of a familiar form of American paranoia. On Monday, federal authories charged nine alleged Hutaree members with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. The government believes the group - which apparently espouses an extreme form of fundamentalist Christianity - may have been plotting to kill law enforcement officers to help spark a broader armed conflict. According to court documents, the Hutaree deemed police "foot soldiers" of the federal government - which in turn was part of the New World Order, a perpetual bogeyman of militia groups...."

      Sounds very KKKish with a militia-type overtone. This made my to-be-researched list also.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Thats what I try to do. Although I have deliberately avoided linking to the websites of any of the groups such as the EDL, UAF etc in this article as obviously they are likely to take one side or the other. In my research I discovered the EDL is linked to a group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) and that there is an american equivalent called Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). This might be an interesting place ofr you to start your research as an American - once you have finished your gardening anyway!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      I'll have to research it more as I have time. It is gardening season and my time is limited. I will be looking for differences and similarities in my opinion versus what they say they stand for and if different, what they actually do.

      I'll try to get back to you if I formulate an educated opinion.

      I'll try to read anything you post to it related and other sources, all sides. This is how I research. Both sides and hopefully some neutral. I need a new research interest, anyway.

      Be prepared that in all probability if this is KKKish/neofascist in any form or involves violence against random Muslims under the surface, I'm not going to approve of it.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      I am not sure if the EDL did splinter off the BNP, I think it may have formed independently (mainly caused by a couple of sparks linked to Islamic fanatics) and has just snowballed.

      However, I agree there must be some way of finding how to deal with it. I think the EDL does at least publicly say it is not against Islam, just radical Islam and certainly there have been photos of people on EDL demonstrations who are of many races (there have been pictures of people with many skin colours and many religions eg Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Jewish). In fact there have even been claims that moderate Muslims have joined EDL protests - if this is the case then it can truly claim to be a movement which is literally only against militant Islam and not Islam per-se. However, obviously there are members as within any major group in society who hold racist views, but the EDL leadership are trying to make sure that racist views don't get an airing through the use of stewards and assisting police.

      Radical Islam is certain a problem worldwide though (although one which is often overstated or understated depending on who is commenting at the time) and there needs to be a way of figuring out how to deal with it - which is what the EDL are aiming to do.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      So basically the EDL might be considered a one topic focus group that splintered off the BNP with some overlap.

      I actually agree that there must be some appropriate way to deal with militant Islamic factions. I know London is almost beseiged with it. I know that currently Australia and a whole bunch of European countries are struggling with finding the proper line between free speech/religion and the dangers of extremism.

      But I do not agree that tarring all Muslims most of whom are just ordinary people of a different religion is appropriate. I have no solutions personally, but I have an interest in watching other countries try to define that line. You can't let fascists be democratically voted in to remove accepted human rights and liberties. Think Hitler. So how to stop that without becoming what you hate? I don't know.

      Also, I think my country, U.S. sucked for Gitmo and stuff. You can't fight monsters by becoming a monster. My country disappoints me.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Might do that in the future - once I finish the hubs I have on the drawing board. At the moment I have a plan to write an article on the group Unite Against Facism (if I ever get time) and then maybe one on the BNP after which I will write an article on the differences/similarities between them all.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      I'd be interested if you researched and did a Hub on what philosophical differences might exist between the two.

      If you make it, I will come.

      I'm a chronic researcher and I know a few BNPs from message boards, but this EDL is new to me.

      Also, perhaps antifa is an american term.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      From research carried out for this article there seem to be conflicting views on how linked the English Defence League and British National Party are. The EDL claim that they are only against militant Islam and whilst the BNP are as well this is where the links end. However, some claim that known BNP supporters have been spotted at EDL events although the EDL counter-claim that this is just coincidence and not proof of wider links/collaboration. I guess the only people who would know for certain are the leaders of the BNP/EDL but from evidence there seem to be large differences between the two groups and both groups, publicly at least, distance themselves from the other.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      Appreciate the right for opposting views. What is the relationship between the EDL and the BNP?

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Iðunn thanks for taking the time to comment on this article on the English Defence League - I must say I have never even heard of the word antifa before!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      agreeing with iskra's general sentiments regarding fascists and racists. antifa (antifascist/antiracist) checking in.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      iskra1916 that is quite a controversial comment and I expect there may be EDL supporters who will post comments back! As I said though I am happy for this comment section to be a forum for free speech and hopefully people will remain civil.

    • iskra1916 profile image

      iskra1916 8 years ago from Belfast, Ireland.

      They are a bunch of fascists/racists & in this citizen's book the only good racist/fascist is a dead one.

      I strongly support their "right" to be kicked off the streets...

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for taking the time to comment shawellyn. I agree that people may not like such actions as those carried out by EDL (and by UAF) but I think it is important as everyone has a right to free speech! I can imagine this comment section becoming quite busy though with debate between people who support the English Defence League and those who support Unite Against Facism!

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Nice to see that you have included an 'open forum' for discussion in the last paragraph. The article is factual and informative. Im not sure on my view on this sort of action - I just believe in live and let live:)


    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 8 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for taking the time to comment thevoice. Regardless of whether you agree with the views of groups such as the English Defence League there is freedom of speech throughout many parts of the world, including England, and so they have a right to practice this.

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 8 years ago from carthage ill

      great hub its freedom of God choice for all people


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