The English Defence League (EDL for short, and yes, they spell defense “defence” over there) is an organization made up of football enthusiasts and irritable sorts who march across the UK protesting against Islam. The problem—well, one problem—is that they make no real distinction between garden-variety and extreme Muslims and claim the entire lot are terrorists who should be forcibly removed from the country.
The EDL are not surprisingly white males from the age of 18 to 50, all dressed in frumpy hooligan fashion. Before every so-called political protest they gather in a pub, get drunk on lager, and spill into the streets, pints in hand, with customized banners and t-shirts. Their goal is to wreak as much havoc as possible, and a catalog of inspired chants has become one of their most effective calling cards. The song containing the lines “Gordon Brown/What a wanker/What a wanker” is a greatest hit.
Over the past six months I’ve been following them on a tour across England, and you’ll be glad or terribly depressed to learn that their recruitment numbers are surging.
|The EDL, with convincing signage.|
I first saw the EDL in Birmingham on September 5, 2009. They planned to protest against Muslims underneath the Aston Expressway, but as soon as they arrived in the center of town they were met by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) members. Fighting broke out and a large gang of Muslim youths joined in to support UAF. The EDL were beaten back and retreated to a pub. Eventually they were bussed out of the city by the police for their own safety. It was like a scene out of Quadrophenia but with more badly dressed racists.
|And here we go! This is the beginning of the Birmingham gig. As soon as the EDL got onto New Street, at around 2 PM, they were met by a group of UAF protesters and fighting commenced.||
A group of Muslim youths attacked, and EDL-ers were herded into a wine bar. The EDL hurled bottles at the Muslims and anti-fascists from inside. One member accidentally smashed a bottle on the head of another EDL member.
|Police had to intervene after the UAF cornered an EDL straggler and his daughter. We don’t know whether she also hated Muslims, as she wasn’t yelling slogans, but for the sake of this caption we’re going to assume she does.||
After three hours the EDL were placed on double-decker buses and driven out of the city. Many were detained for breach of the peace.
|By 1 PM the EDL protesters were drunk and singing a new song. The lyrics: “Allah is a pedo/ Allah is a pedo/ Nah nah nah nah/ Nah nah nah.” Controversial, but also totally catchy.|
In December, the EDL planned a march through Nottingham. I arrived early at the EDL’s meeting point at a pub by the canal—it wasn’t yet lunchtime but everybody had clearly downed a few lagers to get them in the mood for yelling racist stuff at people. The police took no chances this time and kept the EDL and UAF apart, so while it was still awesome, it wasn’t quite as exciting as the start of the Birmingham show. Once the EDL realized they couldn’t get anywhere near UAF, which is mostly made up of old grannies and students, they got bored and started fighting with police, who beat the shit out of them and released the hounds and horses.
|This photo is blurry because I was running away like a coward, but as you can see the police sent in horses to push back the oncoming EDL, happily knocking over any bystanders in the way.||
According to this gentleman, I’m a communist and he’s going to come and find where I live and stab me in the face.
|Oh shit, it’s the dogs! This bit was probably the scariest of the Nottingham show. These dogs are really mean and don’t seem to like white people or darker-skinned Muslims.||
Again the police herded the EDL to a pub, where they got even more drunk and started rubbing their dicks at me, implying that I was a homosexual—or that they were. Either way, if I stuck around too long somebody was bound to get fucked.
|The small congregation of Muslim haters witnessed a speech by Stephen Gash, the leader of SIOE’s English division. Sadly, no one could hear him because UAF had a massive truck with speakers nicked from a festival.|
In December, a Danish faction of the EDL called Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) organized a demonstration against the new mosque in Harrow, London. They invited their English EDL buddies along for the ride, but only 20 anti-Muslim soccer fans turned up and they were faced with more than 200 UAF supporters. I almost felt sorry for the leader of SIOE, Anders Gravers, who came all the way from Denmark with his bodyguards only to be embarrassed and forced home without finding even a single Muslim to slur.
|I met this guy in Harrow and he showed me his drawing.|
|With Harrow’s new mosque looming in the background, UAF taunted the EDL. They countered with some hooky tunes of their own, including “Nazis Go Home” and “EDL Go to Hell.”|
|The EDL is pro-Israel because it is anti-Muslim, or something to that effect. The lady on the left banged on about female genital mutilation, the man in the middle called me a bitch, and the one on the right shouted “Paki scum” at UAF.|
|The EDL assembled in a small space outside Parliament, zeroed in on some migrant workers working atop Westminster Abbey, and began berating them.|
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch MP who had previously been banned from entering the UK on grounds of inciting racial hatred, was invited to the House of Lords in London to show his film Fitna, which claims the Prophet Muhammad is the devil and the Koran is like Mein Kampf. The EDL came to show their support on a sunny Friday in early March and started outside Tate Britain—I assume because the venue has the word “Britain” in it and that makes it more patriotic. A few speeches were made and then they all marched on down to the Houses of Parliament to yell at tourists about how much they thought Allah was gay.
|I came across these two drinking outside the Morpeth Arms, who explained how Muslims were stealing our jobs and explained how taxes allowed illegal immigrants to smuggle heroin into the country and ban Christmas.||
After three more pints, the EDL went back to the Tate, where this man gave a speech to the baying crowd. He claimed he was a Sikh and that because one of their members was a Sikh the EDL weren’t racist.
|This fellow on the left claimed his wife was a Muslim from “Saudi Aragia.” What with the Sikh guy and now this discovery of a new Middle Eastern country, the whole thing had turned positively psychedelic.||
Hey, it’s that guy from the Harrow gig! And with a new drawing that sums everything up nicely. Thanks for the eye-opening good times, EDL.