Monday, February 25, 2013

Ban the Burqa, But Not the Balaclava

Last week the EDL came to Cambridge for a static demonstration against a proposed mosque in the city.  

There is an otherness in the EDL which makes them interesting. Their attitude towards culture and arguably race is so taboo in contemporary society that it excludes them from most areas of public life, and yet here they are out in public, essentially powerless but with the ability to terrify middle England. 

Upon their arrival police  arranged for them to stand in pen constructed of steel barriers that resembled something you might corral cattle in. The intention would be for them to  remain inside whilst the counter demonstration marched past. It seemed a little odd, rather like they were going to be an exhibit in a zoo to be peered at by the rather genteel people of the city who might be in turns both horrified and fascinated by these 'rough' types. 

As I got there a fight broke out in the pen when someone unfurled a banner with a swastika, only to be jumped on quickly the by EDL stewards. Thereafter there was quite a lot of swinging fists and shouting as the offending person, now bloodied was ejected from the pen into the arms of several policemen. 

I wanted to go into the pen but was a little nervous having just seen one of the EDL's own getting filled in for misbehaving. Fortunately, shortly afterwards a student turned up looking rather  spiffy with her new cameras,  protective helmet and obvious enthusiasm. She proceeded to wander up to the gate and into  the pen with the sort of naive confidence that might have presaged a glittering career in Fleet Street if it still existed.

A gentleman might have warned her of the imminent danger, but sadly he wasn't in attendance. 

As I waited to see what happened the photographer from a local paper sidled up to me, nodded his head towards the student and mumbled something about it not ending well.

I watched her for a few minutes  and as she appeared to remain unmolested I followed her in.

Surprisingly, once in the pen it was all rather friendly. No-one declined to be photographed and seem to be quite flattered to be asked.

If nothing else the badge manufacturers of the UK must be grateful for the emergence of the movement.

Getting out of the pen was slightly more difficult as the police seemed convinced I was an EDL supporter and insisted I had to remain inside with my new 'friends'. 

Once again, one flash of  the NUJ card  and all my problems magically disappeared!


In the event only about 40 EDL members turned up and were out numbered by about 1000 marching in opposition to them, along with several hundred police officers.

One thing that did surprise me is how slick the pr machine of the EDL has become recently. Their media liason officer handed me a business card from a smart silver case and the members had apparently been briefed not to be antagonistic towards the press.

I suspect though if you have to ask your supporters not to make nazi salutes via a loud hailer you still have some way to go before becoming a major political force.

1 comment:

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