The English Defence League (EDL)
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.
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.