500 members of the EDL (English Defence League) gathered in Bar Risa, Broad Street in Birmingham on Saturday 11th October before marching to their protest site in Centenary Square.
EDL are a far-right human rights organisation who aim to “protect the inalienable rights of all people to protest against radical Islam’s encroachment into the lives of non-Muslims” who wish to “impose a harsh legal system that rejects democratic accountability and human rights.” (as stated in their mission statement).
Despite businesses and attractions being open as usual on Saturday 11th October, many shoppers were deterred from entering the city for fear of the repetition of last year’s violent protest of 2,000 demonstrators. Birmingham Police kept the peace and prevented mass violence from the protestors and demonstrations. A total of 10 arrests were made and any rival protestors were escorted from the area to ensure the risks were reduced. Superintendent Rich Baker, Birmingham Police clarifies that “the force has no power to ban protest groups from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions but we have been planning for weeks to minimise disruption to those who live, work or were visiting the city on the day.” The comparatively low turnout this year meant that police were containing minor disturbances.
EDL speeches continued until 2:30pm and protests ended at 3pm. Some demonstrators ignored police warnings to stay nearby Chamberlain Square and congregated around the Victoria Square fountains. The speech was interrupted by a police liaison officer who told them that arrests would be made if they did not move to the appointed site. The protestors eventually agreed to march to the prescribed protest area.
A Counter-EDL speech was interrupted as the microphone was grabbed by an EDL supporter. Another EDL member tried to remove the flag displaying the words “Nazi scum off our street”, which was also being chanted by demonstrators. Two others walked through the crows waving an English flag.
Labour Councillor Josh Jones (Stockland Green) was present for the protests. He states that he doesn’t “believe there should be a platform for fascist and racist organisations. Birmingham is a diverse, multicultural city and we are proud to have people from all over the world living here. The EDL are just here to stir up racial tensions. It’s not on.”
EDL are just “stirring up racial tensions.” – Josh Jones (Stockland Green)