This Saturday, around 700 EDL members swarmed on Dudley, ready to down some British bitter and march around holding paranoid signs about Muslims in the name of patriotism.
The town was locked down, with police from all over the country manning both the roads and the giant metal roadblocks that had been set up along the march route. These were put in place to keep the EDL lot away from the 50 or so anti-fascists holding a counter-protest, as well as local Muslims who'd gathered near a mosque.
The atmosphere inside the EDL meeting pub was much as you'd expect: like a coach full of angry, pissed up ultras on their way to an away day. Members had flocked in from all over the UK, and pretty much everyone in there – bar one or two Sikh guys – was a white man aged between 20 to 50. Makeshift posters were handed out and, to their credit, it seemed that whoever's in charge of the EDL's crafts department has finally started to run the slogans ("No Mosques in the UK", "No Halal Butchers", "Rape Jihad", etc, etc) through spellcheck.
Once everyone had drunk a belly-full, the majority started their march. Chants from the "non-racist" EDL ranged from "If you all hate Pakis clap your hands," to the ever-popular "No surrender to the Taliban" – a weird choice considering the Taliban has very little to do with the UK, be that Islam or just generally anything.
At the rally – called to protest a mosque being built in Dudley – speaker after speaker spoke of the evils of Islam and defiantly claimed the EDL was alive and kicking despite widespread reports the far right group is in decline. EDL top man Ian Crossland said: "We should send them back to the sandpit they all came from, and then turn that sandpit into glass," before mistaking Black Country folk for Brummies.
Speaker Tim Burton added: "This mosque – what's it all about, then? This mega-mosque-strosity will ruin this little market town. The money they are spending on the minarets alone could pay for an alarm clock in Dudley, so there's no need for five calls to prayer a day."
As he said those words, a man in a balaclava shouted: "We will burn it down."
After the rally ended the EDL melted away, leaving the town in the fleet of coaches they came in.
Colin Lunn from the EDL media team said: "It was a successful day for us. We made our point. It was a shame that the police operation stopped the people seeing what we are all about."
Of course, what he hadn't realised is that everyone already knows what they're all about: wasting police time; getting drunk in public; being confused about the difference between moderate Muslims and radical extremists; and worrying about the non-existent threat of Sharia being implemented in the UK.
Overall, 29 people were arrested, with 25 taken in to prevent an imminent breach of the peace and later released without charge. One man is still in custody relating to matters with another police force; another was charged with assaulting a police officer and will appear in court later this month; and two fixed penalties were issued for obstructing the police and public order.
Chief superintendent Chris Johnson said: "While West Midlands Police has no power to ban people from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions through protest, we have been planning the policing operation for months. Local officers have been meeting regularly with organisers, councillors, business leaders, community representatives and others to share information on the protests."
The police threw an estimated £1 million at the operation stopping EDL violence, and succeeded. Whether the taxpayer will think it was money well spent is a debate for another day.