By Steve Beauchampé.
Next Saturday (October 29th) members of the far right English Defence League and their supporters will descend upon Birmingham, and in particular Victoria Square, for a political rally.
They will be aiming to provoke a hostile reaction from left wing activists and members of the city’s Muslim community and they will doubtless succeed. Coming together under the moniker of Unite Against Fascism, far left groups will as ever rise to the EDL’s bait and play to its’ agenda: i.e. whenever the EDL announce a rally, UAF members drop whatever plans they had for the day and rush off to chant and wave placards at a group of boorish racists operating at the margins of political life.
The best-case scenario for next Saturday is that it’ll be noisy with possibly a few scuffles and a small number of arrests. But it might be worse, with running battles along the lines of those witnessed in Birmingham at previous EDL rallies in August and September 2009.
Either way Birmingham does not need this. In the wake of August’s rioting and looting there’s a poster campaign currently underway to persuade people to come and enjoy the city centre. These efforts will quickly be undermined if visitors and residents are met with the sight of a couple of hundred chanting, shaven-headed thugs gathered in the city’s main civic space, a collection of far left politicos and angry young Muslims outside of it trying to square up to them and scores of police (some in riot gear) trying to keep the two groups apart. All this happening on the main thoroughfare between New Street, the museum and art gallery and the canals and squares of Brindley Place. Who wants to shop, meet friends for a drink or take the children round town under those circumstances?
This, remember, coming at a time when both West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council face major funding shortfalls. Despite this, both organisations will be forced to expend considerable time and money in order to uphold the law and ensure public safety. It can be argued whether the EDL rally should have been staged elsewhere (under Spaghetti Junction perhaps), but it is where it is and it will become exactly what its organisers want it to be if UAF stages a counter demonstration and provides its foes with the oxygen of publicity they would not otherwise enjoy.
The EDL/BNP/National Front will forever be peripheral groupings in Britain’s political landscape…put simply; they’ll never catch on! If they had the time and money Birmingham City Council could festoon Victoria Square with banners celebrating multi-culturalism and run similarly themed videos through the big screen on the square to make it absolutely clear to the EDL where this city stands. However, if the hard Left want to challenge both the extreme Right and the ideas they espouse, they’d perhaps be better turning their ire on a major inspiration of that thinking, those outwardly honourable newspapers and other media outlets, their editors and owners, who on a daily basis, wilfully mislead and distort stories about Islam, immigration and asylum seekers to fit their own political agenda. They are the true recruiting grounds for EDL support.