It was the big day when the English Defence League graced us with their presence and as there was no circus in town, milling around Walsall town centre passed as entertainment on a windy autumn Saturday morning. We had parked strategically away from the centre of town so that in the event of a colossal disturbance of the peace, we could slip away and drive like buggery to the safety of middle class Aldridge.
The route took us past the area earmarked for the EDL to ply their vile trade of hatred and lies to a home audience of wannabe thugs. At the time, the amassed horde numbered no more than twenty, probably a tenth of the Police Officers that were overseeing the demonstration. The shouts and raucous singing was more in line with a football crowd than an alternative political stance. I am possibly slightly disingenuous in believing this was little in the way of voicing an objection and more of just wanting a good fight with someone, anyone, with moral outrage the mitigation. I walked away thinking they were more to be pitied than scorned, their lives bereft of the colour and vibrancy that multiculturalism delivers, to the abject impossibility of living an Aryan lifestyle in a cosmopolitan world.
We made our way to the appointed location for the counter demonstration, Gallery Square, the first location that Siberian weather makes landfall in the United Kingdom. Quite possibly the most windswept place in the whole of the West Midlands. I couldn’t help thinking the EDL were being pampered into good behaviour by being graced with a more sheltered spot. There were more police, lots more police and mobile cordons, there was no doubt that the preparations had been carefully considered and for a long while there was more of a carnival atmosphere than a demonstration. Everyone was smiling, united in a stance against the unacceptable. The music was good and the Socialist Worker vendors persistent, just as it should be. Things were about to change.
I am not sure how well this will go down but the sight of fifty hooded and masked Asian youths marching in en masse shouting “Allahu Akbar” is scary. I can’t have been alone in feeling this as the a silence descended and the smiles vanished. The police moved in and mingled a little more purposefully as community leaders called for masks to be removed and calm to prevail. We decided to “bug out” to our fall back location, Costa coffee and let developments do their own thing. After a period of time the group tried to leave and the police flowed with them, we decided we had made our statement and it was time to leave. This was not as easy as we would have liked as the mobile cordons had been deployed and the “thin blue line” prevented access to most routes away from the Gallery. After a ten minute walk, we found ourselves thirty metres from where we had started but at least on the right side of the blockade. We then tried to pass by Leicester St and the ranks of the Fascist thugs had swelled to around two hundred. The vitriolic hateful words spilling out of loudspeakers inciting halfwitted appreciation disgusted me and I found it difficult to believe that anyone could believe it. Again I wasn’t alone as the gathering crowd of onlookers stifled amusement as their mobile phones captured the occasion on video. It seemed a good time to try and return to the car as a few of the guard thugs, sorry EDL event management, started taking an interest and videoing back.
We had just made our way through the maze of cordons as something detonated. The noise of the rabble grew louder and we were informed that it was kicking off. From the relative safety five hundred metres provides I was quite interested in what was kicking off but the riot policeman, who had been polishing his riot gear since Saltley Gate stepped in and started shouting repeatedly at a young Asian male to go away. His similarity to a Vogon guard was almost amusing but as he got louder in his repetition of “Go away” I could see in his eyes that he was losing it and we departed at a brisk walking pace for fear of upsetting his finely balanced nerve.
I have to say in conclusion that the Police were on the whole, good humoured, helpful and a credit to their profession. Their presence was reassuring and I was dismayed to hear that some were injured in the brief outburst of violence but in a way this justified their level of preparedness, which I had previously considered over the top. As we waited in traffic a cavalcade of black coaches was led through to collect the White Supremacist’s, oh the irony.
Well as my blog draws to a close, just a quick thank you to the EDL, thank you for wasting good oxygen in my town centre, thank you for closing shops and market stalls, thank you for causing travel disruption and thank you for trying to divide a happily multicultural population. Don’t rush back.