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edl protest

EDL march in Newcastle. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The demonstrations of the organisation are dominated by Islamophobia and far-right extremism

The Football Lads Alliance hit the headlines for pulling tens of thousands of people out onto the streets of London. They purport to bring together football fans of all clubs in opposition to all types of extremism (responding to the various terror attacks that have been committed in the UK this year), and also say they are non-racist.

The demonstrations, of which so far there have been two, are sold as a day out with the lads, to have a drink and a laugh, and make a statement, but the marches themselves, and the people they have had on their platforms, tell a different story.

One thing dominates - Islamophobia. Tommy Robinson, ex-leader of the EDL, was at the head of October’s march, using it to build his rebooted profile. Afterwards, he tweeted that ‘every lad he met on the march was opposed to Islam, not ‘extremism’.” A brief look at the FLA’s facebook page exposes their racist views, with some posts even calling for civil war with Muslims.

The speakers, who include far right activists such as Mohan Singh and Toni Bugle, consistently use racist rhetoric, singling out black MP Diane Abbott as a hate-figure, and calling for non-British suspected terrorists to be deported. These people have a history of links to various far right groups, and have, in the past, shared platforms with fascists.

There has been abuse from the ground as well, with counter-demonstrators being called ‘traitors’, ‘not English anymore’ and ‘black bastards’.

Their main source of organisation has been the old football hooligan networks, but they clearly managed to pull out a wider layer of fans, echoing EDL demonstrations of the past, which consisted of a hardcore of racists, while bringing out a large ‘soft’ layer as well.

No doubt many of those on the marches were there with more honest intentions, but the fact that it’s called a ‘lads’ alliance should surely ring alarm bells for any people thinking it was just a fun day out for everyone, since half the population are excluded.

Far right and fascist organisation has been at a historic low since the anti-Nazi league pushed them off the streets in the nineties, but they will have been emboldened by these actions. We have to be vigilant and make sure opposition continues.

That means street action, and opposing racism in all it’s forms. But we have to offer those who believe the government don’t do enough about terrorism an alternative set of ideas. Many people agree that foreign intervention helps perpetuate the violence. A clear anti-war message can win many people over. A continuation of the status quo will boost these groups ability to gain support.

Cameron Panting

Cameron Panting

Cameron Panting was formerly National Organiser for Counterfire. He is active within the People's Assembly and Stop The War.

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