You are viewing blog items for November 2010.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 29 November 2010, 12:04
Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, the officer in charge of political extremism in this country, refuses to accept that the EDL is a far right organisation. He obviously doesn't consider racism as a political problem because if he did then the EDL would be on his watch list.
Just look at this example from Kingston, Surrey, last week - hardly a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.
Masked men threw bottles of beer and urinated on a mosque almost after an EDL demo in the area had finished and bacon was left on nearby shops. The following day 10-15 youths attacked the same mosque with basball bats.
Rizwan Khaliq, spokesman for the Kingston Muslim Association, said: "Under the pretence of protesting against extreme elements within the Islamic faith, a group of masked men congregated outside the mosque shouting obscenities at the mainly elderly congregation inside.
"They urinated against the mosque walls, threw beer-bottles, and used baseball bats to smash windows.
"It is a miracle that nobody was injured and only superficial damaged was caused.
"Such despicable actions have no place in our community and it is something that we must all unite against.
"All decent folk must come together and unite against the hate agenda – which has no place in our community."
There is a clear connection between the EDL and racist attacks and we are determined that Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway understands this. This week I'm going to write a letter to Adrian Tudway asking for a meeting to discuss the EDL. I'll let you know how he responds.
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 29 November 2010, 11:27
I'm delighted to say that we have now raised over 40% of our fundraising target, with donations currently standing at £6,080.
We are seeking £15,000 to help us campaign against the English Defence League. This will enable us to produce:
*) a briefing paper on the EDL that will be sent to all politicians, councils and police forces across the country.
*) a study on how extremism breeds extremism and how the actions of the EDL will only push young Muslims towards extremist groups.
*) a campaign pack to help local communities deal with an EDL threat
500,000 leaflets so we can tell the public the truth about the EDL wherever it is active.
You can donate here:
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 29 November 2010, 09:29
I think I mentioned last week that when I bumped into Billy Bragg at Westminster he gave me a copy of his latest CD - Pressure Drop. It was music from the play of the same title that was performed in the spring. Anyway, I've only just got round to listening to it and I like it, particularly the first track, Home.
Anyway, I'm not sure if it's on public release yet but watch out for it
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Sunday, 28 November 2010, 18:47
There's been a lot of talk about the EDL protests yesterday but the best sources are always those that were present. Here's a view from one of our HOPE not hate organisers who was present in Nuneaton yesterday. I think you'll agree he sums up the fear and anger generated by the EDL violence very well:
‘’Stand together against the EDL, show they are not wanted here and that they do not represent Nuneaton’’ said Annesha, one of the local organisers of Nuneaton Anti-fascist Alliance whilst addressing a frozen crowd of local residents. That’s why I was there, because racism should not be allowed to take over our streets and terrorise our communities... This wasn’t my first demonstration but it certainly was my first counter demonstration against the English Defence League.
The coaches went passed with St. Georges cross flags pressed up against the flexing glass as shaven drones pushing each other out of the way to show how straight their middle fingers are. We huffed and occasionally laughed but we stopped laughing when the 6th and 7th coach went through.
Our counter-protest was to be peaceful, uniting and empowering but there were barriers surrounding us which I couldn’t help but feel alarmed about. As I exchanged friendly conversation with others around me I could sense a level of apprehension in the crowd - what was going to happen to us? What were the police going to do?
As the EDL approached we began chanting together, standing together but when the marchers moved quickly towards us the taste of adrenaline became too much. I was scared, not just for my safety but the safety of my friends and the town. They moved like a tsunami pushing police officers further towards us. I stood watching, shaking and trying to keep a fearless face. Something round and black hit the floor next to me. It fizzed and exploded with bits hitting my face. Then a lit firework landed on my right, there was a scream which I literally couldn’t tell whether it was me or the firework. Shifting diagonally away from the fireworks screeches, a fellow protester covered it with his placard and ran. I looked up and took a breath.
There were moments when it looked like the EDL were going to break through the police, and what then? Fisty-cuffs at dawn? These weren’t people that wanted to fight you, these are people who want to break your skull and kill you.
I wanted to be so strong for this, assumed that years of campaigning had prepared me for anything. This scale of violence was horrific, obscene and made me feel sick. I had expected brushes and a few coins but I didn’t expect this emotion. This was different, the EDL are different.
The English defence league want to land in your town and take you, your friends and your community apart with their hands and their words of hate. They want to hear your bones break, they want to see your blood spilled. This is not something that I can ever let Nuneaton endure again. After the counter-demo, when police had shifted over to where the EDL march was ending with a rally some younger EDL members came up to us and spat, well actually gobbed, at us – I really wanted to hit that scum bag in the face but I looked at the few teenagers that were with us, what would I be showing them? What sort of lesson would that be? So I called for a Policeman who quickly ran at the EDL boys and they scattered away. Our lads were so angry and rightly so, they wanted to take some action but we calmed them down – their future was more important than a record.
The Muslim community invited everyone back to their local centre for tea and warmth. It felt great in there, being on our terms without the EDL standing a few feet away. Whilst we defrosted I began speaking to leaders, young Muslims and other local residents. I asked them what should we do next time, another demo? The answer was an overwhelming ‘No’ with many residents saying that we ‘shouldn’t simply throw people at the EDL’ and that ‘they shouldn’t be allowed to bus into our town for a violent march’
From this experience today I know that the far right have changed and that means we have to change our response too. If we listen to our community we can already hear that response and I can tell you with my experience of today: it doesn’t include violence."
To help us tell everyone about the EDL please donate to our Appeal. You can do so here:
Posted: 28 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 23:33
We have had a fantastic response to our latest appeal with £4,822 being donated.
Earlier today EDL supporters threw bricks, bottles, coins, fireworks, smoke grenades and thunderflashes at local people in Nuneaton, while young children looked on in a nearby library. In Preston EDL supporters chanted 'Burn a mosque'. Yet the authorities still refuse to accept that the EDL is a racist threat.
To help us inform the authorities of the true nature of the EDL you can donate here: https://donate.hopenothate.org.uk/page/contribute/Donate-to-educate
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 20:39
Some EDL supporters have emailed us to claim that the woman we photographed being arrested was a UAF supporter. They have been trying to use this to dismiss our comments about EDL violence.
Well, our eagle-eyed researchers went back over earlier EDL demos and found the said woman … in the EDL crowd. Here she is in Bradford.
One of our spotters in Preston commented that she was fighting with police like a woman possessed.
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 3 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 19:19
Images of todays EDL demo
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 13 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 15:08
This is what remains of one of the many flash grenades thrown at local people by EDL supporters in Nuneaton.
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 14:40
EDL supporters are now coming on to me to claim that there was no violence at today's protests. They say that the camera never lies so later this evening, when our teams return home, we shall be putting up photos of bloodied EDL stewards, EDL members being arrested, thunderflashes and smoke grenades going off and EDL fighting the police.
And that's just from Preston.
From Nuneaton we shall be uploading footage of the moment EDL thugs rained bottles, coins and other missiles down on local people and tried to break though police lines.
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 17 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 14:09
Here's a photo of police trying to stop the EDL from attacking local people. How can the authorities not take the EDL threat seriously?
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 13 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:56
The EDL in Preston are still fighting though many of the victims appear to be on their own side. A number of people have been carried out with serious cuts and head injuries. There have been a few arrests as well.
The situation has calmed down a bit in Nuneaton. The EDL got within 3 metres of the anti-fascist protest before they were beaten back by police. A number of EDL sustained some injuries in this attack. They are now gathering to have some speeches
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:41
Real trouble is breaking out in Preston. There are two groups of EDL, one, in the main square of 6-800 and then a second group of 200. Both are fighting with everyon.
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:36
In a bid to restore order the police have actually made the problem worse. They have pushed some EDL down some side streets, directly into the path of the UAF protest. The police has no idea who is who and fighting is breaking out.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:30
It's going off in Nuneaton now. Bricks, bottles and fireworks are being thrown at anti-fascists. Police are trying to prevent the EDL from attacking people but there is only 5m between the two groups.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:27
That's not coming from our side but the words of EDL leaders in Preston desperately trying to keep order amongst their own side. They are appealing for more stewards as those they have got are being battered by their own supporters as they attempt to break out of their pen and fight with locals.
But don't worry, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway says the EDL is not a problem. Please!
Posted: 27 Nov 2010 | There are 3 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:19
The police are losing control in Preston. The main square is full of smoke from smoke grenades. Loads of locals are out trying to get at the EDL and, in the words of one of our team: "the police are shitting it".
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:17
The mood is turning nasty in Preston. The police are holding the line for now but the small barriers have been pushed over three times already by the EDL and it seems that it is only a matter of time before real trouble breaks out.
Over in Nuneaton there appears to be 300-400 EDL, among them Kevin Carroll. We've not seen Tommy Robinson yet but he's no doubt around. The police have just warned our guys to be careful as the EDL know who we are.
Hats off to both HOPE not hate teams out there on the ground.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:08
The EDL protest in Preston has swelled from 3-400 a short while ago to about 800 now. Thunderflashes are being thrown. Is this going to be a repeat of Leicester? Is the ridiculous low-profile policing going to be adequate?
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 13:06
Word is coming in that there is going to be an EDL demo in Whitechapel at 5pm today in protest at a Hate Crimes conference. I don't have any more details but if anyone out there has any information please let me know at email@example.com
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 12:45
The Nuneaton EDL demo appears to be building. Eight coaches of EDL supporters have so far arrived but no sign of Tommy Robinson yet.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 12:21
Following the EDL around the country costs money and that's why we have launched a £15,000 appeal to help support our work. We launched it yesterday and already have £3,560 donated by 254 people.
This money will help pay for a briefing document to be submitted to police forces and politicians, a campaign pack for local communities under threat from the EDL and 500,000 new anti-EDL leaflets.
Can you donate here:
Please help us fight the EDL.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 12:03
Here are the first pictures of today's events. The EDL in Nuneaton are drinking in the Abbey and Lloyd's No1.
The gathering place in Preston is still very empty.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 11:58
Just done a ring round and here's the latest. The EDL have begun to arrive in Nuneaton. Four coaches have arrived so far, from Oxford, West Bromich and Nottingham. Ten EDL came up to the anti-EDL protest site and tried it on but were moved off by police.
A bit quieter in Preston. About 200 EDL mingling around. Somewhat bizarrely both the EDL and the UAF protests have been put in the same square only about 50m apart and with low crowd barriers between them. The police in Preston are taking a different approach to their counterparts in Leicester and Bradford. With Millwall playing in Preston later this afternoon let's hope the police are not going to regret their low key approach.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 27 November 2010, 11:46
With the EDL in both Nuneaton and Preston today we are running a live blog from both places. So stay with us for the next few hours.... and if you have any information please do send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Friday, 26 November 2010, 20:38
Posted: 26 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Friday, 26 November 2010, 15:22
A few hours ago we launched an appeal to raise £15,000 to help us increase awareness about the true nature of the EDL. We have had an excellent start with £2,575 raised already.
To make a donation please click here:
Posted: 26 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 25 November 2010, 11:05
Yesterday I bumped into Billy Bragg outside Parliament. We exchanged a few pleasantries, reminisced about the HOPE not hate campaign in Barking & Dagenham and generally chewed the fat. I gave him a document on our future plans and he gave me a copy of his latest CD (Pressure drops). All in about three minutes flat. That's what I call a brief but productive meeting.
Anyway, we did have a quick chat about progressive nationalism, a topic close to Bragg's heart.
I was on my way to a lunch where the question of identity, belonging, loss and nationalism once again raised its head. I raised the point, which I do whenever I have the opportunity, that the BNP has done best in those communities which have experienced the greatest loss of identity – the former pit villages, the steel towns and other places which generally relied on one industry which has long closed down. Areas where the glue which binded the community, and so people's sense of belonging, has gone. It has not done so well in those areas – like Liverpool and Sheffield – which have a strong and proud identity despite economic hardship. It was instructive that of the five people around the table at lunch only one saw himself as English, the rest of us were British or Londonders. Even the one proud Englishman amongst us – Jon Cruddas – said that his mother was Irish and a Londoner with nothing in between. (For what it's worth I see myself as a Londoner and British. My mum was born in Mauritius and I have never felt that comfortable with the English tag.)
It got me thinking and last night I brushed the dust off my copy of Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, a book I first read over 10 years ago. Nationalism has got a bad name, perhaps understandably, but I do believe that it doesn't have to be that way. The Scots have by and large found a positive identity which is both non-threatening and proud. South Africa experienced this, albeit briefly, during this summer's World Cup. So why can't we discover, or as some people like to assert, rediscover, a positive Englishness which is both progressive and inclusive.
Identity and belonging is vitally important and we ignore it at our peril. There is a line in the book which I think sums up the problems of position of many towards nationalism:
"In an age when it is so common for progressive, cosmopolitan intellectuals (particularly in Europe?) to insist on the near-pathological character of nationalism, its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, and its affinities with racism, it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love, and often profoundly self-sacrificing love. The cultural products of nationalism - poetry, prose fiction, music, plastic arts – show this love very clearly in thousands of different forms and styles."
Identity is both fluid and mutli-layered. Sometimes we identify with our street or our community, it could be our town or city or indeed our country. Often we have several identities at the same time. But somehow we do have to develop a more positive Englishness that is inclusive of both those who feel they have lost 'their' country and those who feel that this country is not theirs. It's a huge challenge but one I think we have to solve if we are really going to win people away from the politics of hate and extremism.
Posted: 25 Nov 2010 | There are 11 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 24 November 2010, 20:15
The BNP has one fewer councillor this evening after Emma Colgate informed Thurrock council that she was no longer taking the BNP whip.
Colgate, once close to Griffin, is just the latest councillor to withdraw from the BNP and it is yet another sign that party is collapsing. A few days ago it was claimed that BNP membership was down 50% on 2009.
Posted: 24 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 24 November 2010, 11:02
Many people have wondered why the authorities in London have been so poor in dealing with the EDL. We have even had police forces around the country come to us to complain about the lack of co-operation and help from the Home Office and National Public Order Unit when they have had to deal with the EDL locally.
Now we know. It's simply that the police do not see them as a political problem and so seemingly have little interest in dealing with them.
This admission has been made by Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, who took over the role of national co-ordinator for domestic extremism last week. In his first interview in the job he has said that the EDL was "not a right wing organisation."
He is obviously deciding to overlook the political history of the EDL leaders, the people who attend its demonstrations and the groups it is linking up with internationally.
I wonder whether he will be so confident in his views when the EDL trigger racial violence in our communities?
Posted: 24 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 23 November 2010, 07:14
I woke up this morning to find that just over 3,600 people have so far co-signed our open letter to the editor of the Daily Star calling for more responsible reporting. That is a really fantastic start to the day.
But my day can get better. I'm hoping to have 5,000 names by the end of the day. For the Daily Star to take us seriously we need to show the strength of feeling out there so if you've not signed up then please do, if you have then please send an email/facebook message to all your friends urging them to do likewise.
You can sign up here
Posted: 23 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 22 November 2010, 21:42
Responsible journalism – surely it's not too much to ask?
I can't believe that the editorial department at the Daily Star are happy to think that their newspaper is actually encouraging the very extremism it so hates? It would be somewhat funny if it was not so serious.
Anyway, we've just had our 3,000th person co-sign the letter.
You can back our campaign for responsible journalism by signing our letter to the Daily Star here:
Posted: 22 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 22 November 2010, 17:00
Over 2,000 people have already co-signed the letter to Dawn Neesom, the editor of the Daily Star. That's an incredible figure given that we only sent out the original email under five hours ago.
You can add your name here:
Posted: 22 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 22 November 2010, 15:51
A couple of hours ago we launched a campaign for more responsible reporting of Islam and the Muslim community in the media. We believe that outlandish media reporting is whipping up fear and divisions within society and this is leading to increased hatred and extremism.
We have decided enough is enough and it's time for us all to take a stand.
The need for our campaign was highlighted only this morning when BNP leader Nick Griffin announced on Twitter: "the relentless media critique of Islam is creating fertile ground for BNP future".
If that doesn't shake some newspaper editors up then I don't know what will.
The campaign itself has got off to a flyer. Within an hour of sending the email over 1,000 people had already signed our open letter to Dawn Neesom, editor of the Daily Star.
You can add your name here:
Posted: 22 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 22 November 2010, 13:17
Last week I sent out a survey asking our supporters who was mainly responsible for the rising Islamophobia in Britain today and three quarters of the 1,100 people who replied said the media. As a result we are today launching a campaign for more responsible journalism in the media. We have seen how extremism breeds extremism but we also believe it is important to target those whipping up the hatred that gives rise to the extremism.
Our first target is the Daily Star. We've gone through the past seven years of the newspaper and found hundreds of negative articles about Muslims - and very few positive. Many of the articles over-exaggerate the importance of tiny Muslim extremist groups while ignoring more mainstream Muslim opinion and use the words of these extremists to smear an entire faith. On other occasions they print inaccurate or slanted articles that whip up fear and mistrust.
So I've decided to write to the Star's editor Dawn Neesom to ask her to tone down the shrill.
Freedom of speech is correctly the cornerstone of British society but with freedom comes responsibility and the Daily Star has been overstepping the mark time and again to the extent that it is part of the cycle of hate that is increasing extremism in this country.
I hope you will co-sign my letter:
Posted: 22 Nov 2010 | There are 9 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Friday, 19 November 2010, 09:38
A BBC radio report into the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit has found that police are worried that the violent actions of the EDL are feeding Islamist extremism.
This is precisely the argument that I have been making this week. Hate breeds hate. The EDL breeds Islamist extremism. Islamist extremism breeds the EDL. The bile spewed out by some of Brtiain's newspapers breeds both.
It's time to break the chain.
Posted: 19 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 18 November 2010, 13:37
I have to admit to feeling a little guilty last week after I announced that Lisa Nandy, the MP for Wigan, had become Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Searchlight. She was instantly subjected to a vile anti-Muslim tirade by BNP supporters in her area. She is not a Muslim but this didn't deter these meat heads.
Anyway, Lisa is a tough politician and a strong anti-racist and she is refusing to allow these bullies to affect her. She has just written this article for Tribune, which is worth a read:
Posted: 18 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 18 November 2010, 11:19
And now for something completely different.
Not really related to anything we're up to at the moment but I thought I would share the MoveOn video that was produced for the 2010 US elections:
Be lovely to use a bit of this technology over here!
Posted: 18 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 17 November 2010, 13:51
Tracking through my emails this morning I came across one from a woman who felt so enraged by Nick Griffin’s denial of the Holocaust that she felt compelled to write to me. I think you’ll agree that this blows Griffin’s lies out of the water.
This is her email:
“... As for Nick Griffin’s denying that Jews were rounded up and taken to concentration camps in connection with Kristallnacht, my own father was ‘rounded up’ at the time and taken to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp; and as for the claim that British and American troops built these camps after the war to demonise the Nazis, my father was ultimately released from the camp due to efforts on the part of the British Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes and Passport Officer Frank Foley. Ultimately some seven members of my immediate family ended up in extermination camps such as Auschwitz.
So much for Nick Griffin’s denials!”
Posted: 17 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 17 November 2010, 09:41
We have now had over 860 surveys sent back to us, an amazing response. so far only 20 people have said that they objected to my original blog but even a few of these agree with the sentiments of the blog but just believe I should not have said it publicly. More than 500 of the respondents filled out the comment box at the end, which I think shows the level of interest in the issue and desire for a debate. There are several dozen who have asked me specific questions and so over the next few days I'll try to respond to these people individually.
In the meantime here are a few comments:
It would be good to get some Muslim academics, and leftist leaders on board and being vocal. I would like to see some Muslim women sans hijab as well- there are plenty of us, but the media always wants to show the ones who fit a particular image.
Sameena, East LondonI hadn't even heard about the EDL presence, just about the poppy burning. I think that says all you need to know about our media. Thanks for telling the whole story.
Perfectly good blog. Hatred feeds off hatred. The vast majority of people in Britain whatever their colour, religion or culture would never agree with these groups. I think it's very important to highlight racists and religious bigots wherever they are and whatever excuse they hide behind. We should never fall into the trap of "My enemy's enemy is my friend".
At last! Someone who gets it! Extremists need extremists at the other end of the spectrum in order to justify their existence. The BNP/EDL need MAC and British AQ supporters to gain popularity, and vice versa. People in the centre need to engage with both ends of the continuum at once in order to take away their support base.
MAC do not represent all British muslims! I am a British Muslim and I wore my poppy proudly and observed the two minute silence. I am sickened and offended that these people have no respect for those who fought and died so they could have freedom of speech.
Bushra, East London
I was born and raised in a moderate Muslim family. I am atheist by my own choice but I will stand up for all moderate Muslim. These extremists are not representing Muslims. Unfortunately in todayâ€™s Britain, they are the ones who get a platform to express their feelings and ideas not the moderate Muslims. I for one never seen any of moderate Muslims on TV or other media, on the other hand I have seen a lot of programmes about Muslim extremist with backward believes and extreme views on western world. For BNP and EDL, I can't really say anything but I am very pleased that majority of people in UK won't support them.
“I think the blog was really well written and hit the nail on the head. Some of my colleagues were sucked in by the media coverage of the poppy burning and so I pointed out the bigger picture. The media has a lot to answer for and we really need to address this in our country as they are far too powerful in influencing the opinions of those sitting on the fence.”
Posted: 17 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 16 November 2010, 21:45
Earlier today I sent out an email asking if people agreed with my blog criticising both the Muslims Against Crusades and the English Defence League. An astonishing 802 people have already replied and of them over 97% agreed with my blog. Just 16 people, that’s 2%, said the blog was wrong.
Islamophobia is a growing problem in Britain and, indeed, across Western Europe. Every day we are receiving reports of violence, threats and intimidation and this is only going to increase as public spending cuts hit home. Challenging this Islamophobia is one of the main tasks of anti-racists and anti-fascists over the coming period but to do so effectively means we cannot ignore the actions of small but vocal and potential violent Islamist fundamentalist groups. Of course they do not speak for the majority of the Muslim community but their actions are used by the media to demonise the entire community and as recruiting sargeants for right wing groups.
Publicly opposing these groups does not make us Islamophobes, in fact quite the reverse. It is by staying silent that we gives our opponents a free run. Of course we need to put these extremist groups into context, both in their size and why people are attracted to them, but we can criticise and oppose them nonetheless.
Interestingly enough many of those who have contacted me today are Muslims who totally support our stance. Tomorrow I'll be posting up a few of the 500 emails and comments I have received on this issue.
We also asked people who was most responsible for Islamophobia and over 80% cited the media. That's where we shall be turning our attention next.
Posted: 16 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 16 November 2010, 10:23
Last week I wrote a blog that criticised the English Defence League and Muslims Against Crusades. I watched these two groups of extremists oppose each other on a west London street last Thursday.
I was struck by the hatred shown by both groups. I felt that both thrived on the presence of each other. Although they came from opposing traditions and viewpoints there was a certain symbiotic relationship between the two. I felt they both needed the other to justify their own existence. I criticised both groups equally.
The Islamist extremists no more represent the Muslim community than do the violent racists of the EDL speak for every white person in Britain, but that didn't deter the tabloid press from its sensationalist reporting.
Was I right to criticise both groups?
Re-read my blog and let me know what you think http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/signup/plague-on-both-your-houses
Posted: 16 Nov 2010 | There are 15 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 13 November 2010, 16:22
More reports are coming in. Over 2,500 leaflets were delivered in North Reddish, Stockport. There were 13 people out in Bolton and most of the key BNP target ward was covered.
Posted: 13 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 13 November 2010, 15:31
Reports of activities have been coming from across the country. Despite the cold and sometimes wet weather it seems it is all going well.
Ellie has said that they've almost done an entire ward in Thurrock. She's now off to Rochford where she'll be meeting up with Sam, who was out in Colchester this morning.
Lynne, from Liverpool, has reported that a team was out in Kirkdale ward this morning. Other reports are coming in of positive activities in Walthamstow in North London, Morley in Leeds, Canterbury in Kent, Leicester and Wigan.
Posted: 13 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 13 November 2010, 13:33
Across the country hundreds of HOPE not hate activists are out leafleting today with our special Remembrance Sunday leaflets. In total there are 70 events taking place across Britain.
I'll try to update this site throughout the day but early indications are that all is going well.
We have over 20 people out in Tameside, an important area for the BNP and one where we have struggled to mobilise people in the past. In Burton-on-Trent local activists have already delivered 6,000 leaflets.
If you have been on an activity today please drop me a line to tell me how it's gone.
Posted: 13 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 11 November 2010, 18:51
Two sides of hate faced each other today in West London. As Britain remembered those who had died in past wars, 30 Islamist extremists, under the banner of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), hurled abuse, burned poppies and waved their hate-filled placards. A few metres away 60 supporters of the English Nationalist Alliance and the English Defence League pushed their own intolerant message.
Let us be quite clear, both groups are as reprehensible as each other. In fact, such is the symbiotic relationship between the two that they actually need each other to justify their own existence. For the MAC the presence and activities of the EDL prove how white British society is the enemy. For the EDL the Islamist extremists are proof of the violent nature of Islam. They are two sides of the same coin of hate.
We stand opposed to both sides. We oppose the racism and Islamophobia of the EDL just as we oppose the religious bigotry and antisemitism of the MAC. To hear these Islamist extremists publicly deny the Holocaust and call for the formation of a Muslim Waffen SS Division – as they did today – should rightly sicken every anti-fascist just as much as the racist bile spat out by the EDL and ENA.
We think it is important to criticise both groups publicly. Criticising one group but remaining silent about another leads – correctly – to charges of hypocrisy and double standards. Only by criticising the actions of tiny extremist groups can we say with any validity that neither speaks for the wider communities and religions they claim to represent.
And in criticising both extremist groups I believe that we are in tune with the majority of British people, who want to live in peace and without the hatred and violence extremists bring.
Posted: 11 Nov 2010 | There are 33 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 9 November 2010, 20:59
Just finished a really interesting Labour Friends of Searchlight meeting at the House of Commons. Seventeen MPs were present, including those from Salford, Wigan, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leicester, Gateshead, Dagenham, Dudley, Leeds, Nottingham, Leyton, Luton and Edmonton.
I gave a briefing on the apparent demise of the BNP and the emergence of the English Defence League. This triggered a fascinating debate about identity, Islamophobia, Labour's dislocation and Englishness. There was so much discussion that the meeting went well beyond the hour allotted to it.
It was clear that everyone accepted the scale of the danger before them and this was well articulated by Vernon Coker, Liz Kendall and Shabana Mahmood. There was also, however, a clear determination to continue the discussion in the New Year and the need to link research with action.
I'm really pleased that Liz, Shabana and Lisa Nandy, the new MP for Wigan, all agreed to become Vice-Chairs of Labour Friends of Searchlight.
Posted: 9 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 9 November 2010, 14:02
The Equality and Human Rights Commission's case against the BNP at the High Court has ended with the judgement being deferred to a later date. It will probably be another couple of weeks before we hear the result.
I wonder if Nick Griffin will now make an amazing recovery and discharge himself from the hospital bed he took himself to on either Sunday night or Monday night depending on which reports you read.
If the case goes against the BNP they will be fined and liable for legal costs which will probably be in the high tens of thousands. If the BNP cannot pay then the court will go after BNP assets and in the absence of those hold the party officers liable. The court might like to be told that the party's latest fundraising letter carried Griffin's home address as the return address. I guess that might be as good a place as any for the courts to seek what remains of the party assets.
Posted: 9 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 8 November 2010, 10:20
I'm feeling unwell ... a notorious Holocaust denier has just written to me to complain about our exposé of Holocaust denial in the latest edition of Searchlight magazine. Here is the email I've just received from Fred Leuchter:
"You need to get your facts right before making a fool of yourself before the entire world.
"Your list of so-called Holocaust Deniers is actually a list of those who promote TRUTH in History. Those on the list are some of the bravest people on this planet. You flatter me by including me on your list. Thank you!"
Well, I guess if Leuchter's unhappy we must be telling the truth!
Posted: 8 Nov 2010 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 8 November 2010, 10:08
With my US trip already a distant memory it's back to the office for me today. Knowing that I had a pile of work waiting for me I was here at 7.30am. Nothing too much has changed. The BNP continues to collapse, UKIP has another new leader, well, in fact an old one, and the EDL is still licking its wounds from its humiliating trip to Amsterdam.
I was about to write that Nick Griffin was due in court this morning for what is the latest instalment of the BNP's ongoing battle with the Equality and Human Rights Commission but it seems that he has cried off sick. I'm not surprised that he prefers to keep his head under the duvet given that the party is on the verge of bankruptcy. I don't want to make firm predictions but such is the BNP's dire financial state that I really can't see them surviving much longer. That seems to be a view shared by an increasing number of senior party members.
Posted: 8 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 4 November 2010, 13:30
I'm now back in Washington DC for the final day of my trip. It's been really fascinating and educational but now I'm looking forward to getting home.
Yesterday I had a really good meeting with Judith Freeman, co-founder and Executive Director of the New Organizing Institute. They are amongst the leaders in the field in community organising over here so it was great to learn more about what they do and even discuss a project we will shortly unveil in the UK. They have a fantastic operation and I have to admit being a bit in awe of it, however, as we talked I realised that we did many of the things that they encourage in their training programmes, albeit in a less coherent and thought out way. Our gut instincts about organising are generally right but of course there's a lot more to learn - hence my trip over here.
After that I popped into Blue State Digital's new offices. I was only in their old offices two weeks ago so they moved and got up and running all in the middle of an election campaign. It was good to catch up with Matthew McGregor again, chew the fat over about the US elections and chat about a few things back home.
The rain is beating down outside, only the second day of rain since I've been out here. I'm killing time before another meeting with the NAACP (America's oldest civil rights group) and then it's off to the airport. There was an offer of a tour of the White House but I don't see how I can fit it in before I leave. The airport is calling and I'm coming home.
Posted: 4 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 3 November 2010, 00:53
The chances of the Republicans taking control of the Senate appear to be disappearing as Democrats have been declared winners in West Virginia and Connecticut.
Over in Nevada the rumours are that Harry Reid is doing well against Sharron Angle and the Democrats are expecting to win in Washington state. Exit polls give the Democrats a slight lead in Colorado.
If the Democrats hold all these seats then they will retain control of the Senate.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 3 November 2010, 00:26
Republican Kelly Ayotte, the Senate candidate in New Hampshire and a strong Tea Party supporter, has won her bid. Ms. Palin had strongly endorsed her.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 3 November 2010, 00:19
Christine O'Donnell has been heavily defeated in Delaware...
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 3 November 2010, 00:14
Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for Senate in Florida, is heading for victory. Rubio has been heavily supported by South Carolina senator and Tea Party favourite Jim DeMint.
Sarah Palin was recently campaigning in Florida with Rubio.
Posted: 3 Nov 2010 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 23:59
A Tea Party candidate is defeated in Ohio 8. Rich Lott became known for his love of dressing up in Nazi uniforms. This obviously didn't impress voters and they refused to back him in a seat that the Republicans should have won.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 23:57
According to an exit poll from the Washington Post these elections are showing the most conservative ideological makeup of electorate on record.
The Washington Post also carries a report that the Tea Party is ready to celebrate whatever the results of tonight:
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 23:20
Jim De Mint, another Tea Party favourite is on course to win big in South Carolina. Not a surprise but he is a real player and one to watch out for in the future as he has been funding other Tea Party candidates.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 23:17
Huffington Post's sam Stein has just posted this:
As much as the election tonight is a referendum on the president it also is a barometer for the strength of the Tea Party movement. If certain Senate candidates, in particular, falter, there will be recriminations from sects of the Republican Party.
That said, if exit poll data is to be believed, the debate over the Tea Party’s presence has already been settled. Per ABC News’ numbers:
One widely discussed effect of public disenchantment this year has been the rise of the Tea Party political movement. In preliminary exit poll results, 41 percent of voters describe themselves as supporters of this movement; 21 percent, support it strongly. Thirty-one percent say they oppose the movement; the rest, 24 percent, are "neutral" about it.
One caveat: “Still, just 23 percent said they voted to send a message in favor of the Tea Party movement, vs. 18 percent against it; 55 percent called the movement "not a factor" in their vote.”
Posted: 2 Nov 2010 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 23:09
Republican polling guru Frank Luntz is predicting that Harry Reid will off the challenge of Tea Party favourite Sharron Angle in the Nevada senate race. If this is true, coupled with his prediction that the Republicans will fall just short of taking the ten states they need to win the Senate, then there will undoubtedly be a Republican backlash against the Tea Party movement. Looking to restore their ascendency within the party after losing a string of primaries to the right wing grassroots movement, the Republican establishment will look to blame the Tea Party’s extremism for the failure to take the Senate. In addition to Nevada, Tea Party supporting candidates are in close races in Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia and Alaska. Delaware is likely to have been a lot closer if a more mainstream candidate had been elected.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 21:07
The Tea Party movement has dominated the political discourse in this election, so much so that I’m wondering if the Republican Party name is even on the ballot paper. There’s not a news programme without a mention of the group, not a newspaper without an article capturing the latest gaffe or extremist position from one of its candidates and not a debate about the 2012 Presidential election without some reference to the influence of the Tea Party movement. By contrast there is little or no mention of mainstream Republicans.
Virtually all the crucial swing states have Tea Party supported candidates standing for the Republicans and whatever the results tonight the Tea Party movement will remain in the thick of it. If Tea Party candidates do well then the story will be about their growing influence on US politics. If their candidates fail then mainstream Republicans will blame them for blowing the election.
One of the striking aspects of the Tea Parties is the prominent role of women in their movement, both as candidates but also organisationally. To some they represent conservative feminism; to themselves they are the ‘Mama Grizzlies’.
They often, and probably fairly, complain that the male-dominated media treat them unfairly but they have been dishing it out too. Democrat Senate majority leader Harry Reid was told to “man up” by Mama Grizzly Sharron Angle, his Republican rival in Nevada, and it is a phrase now adopted by Sarah Palin in shooting down her male critics.
Palin’s gone further too, praising Arizona’s anti-immigrant governor Jan Brewer for packing "the cojones that our president does not have". Christine O'Donnell has also got in on the act, telling her Republican primary candidate Mike Castle to "put on your big boy pants".
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 20:33
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League, has gone out of his way to claim that he's not a racist and has had no connection to the BNP.
So why is he pictured here attending a BNP meeting in Luton? Yaxley-Lennon, far left, is listening to Richard Edmonds, a veteran nazi and Holocaust denier. Also in the photo is John Patar, who divides his time between the BNP and the hardline nazi November 9th Society.
Posted: 2 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 20:25
I've just got back from four hours of pounding the streets. By chance my walk partner was Jane MacDonald, Executive Assistant to Arlene Holt Baker, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Arlene has been the union lead on the One Nation Working Together initiative led by the NAACP so in between chatting to voters Jane and I had a good discussion about the issues and threats affecting both countries.
Anyway, the early evidence is indicating an above average turnout in Philadelphia, which is good news for the Democrats in their Senate race. They need a turnout well in excess of 30% to offset the larger Republican vote in the more rural areas of the state.
According to the Huffington Post blogsite there are reports of high turnouts in urban areas in other parts of the country. If true it might not be as bad a night for the Democrats as first feared. However, there's still a few hours to go so of course anything can still happen.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 14:35
I'm just about to go out and do a 'labor walk' but I thought first I'd share a picture of Michelle Obama I took last night at a rally in Philadelphia....
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 11:34
The polls have now opened and the American mid-term elections are under way. The final polls give the Republicans a substantial lead over the Democrats and they look likely to storm to victory in the House of Representatives and could even win back the Senate. Political commentators are openly talking about a political 'tsunami'.
The polls could however be wrong. There are still so many variables that the Democrats might hold on to seats they are expected to lose and lose others that conventional wisdom says they should hold.
While voters are preoccupied with the economy the political landscape has been changed by the emergence of the Tea Party movement. In most of the key margin states the Republicans need to win to take control of the Senate their candidate is a Tea Party supporter. This includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky, West Virginia and Alaska. The Tea Party movement might have energised the Republican base but their extremism and kooky candidates has made some races more marginal than they should have been.
I'm out campaigning today, doing my bit over here. It is also an educating experience as getting so close to a campaign gives me an insight into electoral strategy and techniques. I've already got several ideas about things we can incorporate back home. One of these is the increasing use of behavioural science being adopted by both the Democrats and unions to increase the effectiveness of their campaign.
I'll be writing more about this in due course but in the meantime I'm off out to get a feel of what's happening on the ground.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 1 November 2010, 20:35
Election Day is only hours away and the political temperature is really rising over here. The ads are getting nastier, the campaigning more frantic and the stress levels are rising.
Here in Philadelphia there is a determined mood. The Democrats have been behind in the polls for months but they’ve been clawing their way back over the last fortnight. They still trail but are now within the margin of error.
I got a bit of the glimpse of the AFL-CIO operation today. With 1.2 million union members Pennsylvania is one of the most densely unionised states in the country and if the unions can turn out their vote then the Senate seat can be won by the Democrats. “It’s all down to the ground game,” I keep getting told.
And what a ground game it is too.
Over the last five weeks the unions have contacted 350,000 of their members across the state, by phone and by door-to-door canvassing. These are people who’ve been already identified as soft and occasional voters, ie those they need to turn out to win the election, as opposed to those who they are sure will vote. They call this the persuasion phase, convincing their members of the need to vote. They discuss issues, explain why their preferred candidates are the best for union members and highlight the policy differences with their opponents.
Of the 350,000 targeted members they identified 225,000 who said that they would vote. Added to the 125,000 definite union voters they have a pool of just over 350,000 union members whom they will now concentrate on turning out. This second phase started at the weekend when they began the first sweep, the first round of contacting these members to remind them to vote. Come tonight and tomorrow morning the second sweep begins. And this operation is quite separate from that run by the Democratic Party.
Philadelphia is the key as it makes up such a significant proportion of the Pennsylvania electorate. It is a strongly unionised area and solidly Democrat. Turn out a vote of above 30% here and the Democrats have a good chance to win the Senate seat. A low turnout in Philadelphia and the Republicans are home and dry. No wonder a Republican candidate was caught on tape telling supporters of the importance of a low turnout in Philadelphia.
This afternoon I popped into a teachers’ union office where 30 people were busily doing their bit to convince their members to vote. They had been at it all morning, just like they had over the previous four days. Between 9am and 1pm this and another teachers’ phone bank had contacted over 4,500 members. Overall, this one union will have made over 100,000 calls by the time the polls close. It is union member talking to union member.
But even this is going to be dwarfed by the operation tomorrow. In Philadelphia alone the unions will have an estimated 1,500 activists out on the streets, all signed up to do three four-hour shifts. Across the state (with approx eight million voters) we are looking at over 4,000 union activists being out. Some will be ringing members but the majority will be pounding the streets in the areas of highest union density urging their identified voters to get out.
I’m in awe of this operation. There is simply nothing comparable in the UK. And this is just the public face of the campaign. One of the significant changes to this campaign compared to previous electoral contests is the increasing use of behavioural science to target and engage with voters by both the unions and the Democrat Party. It is because they are combining traditional member-to-member union organising with these new campaigning techniques that the Democrats and the AFL-CIO believe they can surprise the pundits and take the Pennsylvania Senate seat. I guess we will know whether they are correct in a little under 27 hours.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 1 November 2010, 18:51
Speaking at the Tea Party Express rally in Delaware yesterday Christine O'Donnell announced, to great cheers from the crowd, that she had bought several 30 minutes TV slots to air a campaign ad on a local TV station.
The only problem was that it appears that the television station "forgot to air it" last night and this morning.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 1 November 2010, 14:28
Questions about Barack Obama’s identity have dogged him since he became a prominent figure in the Democratic Party. His place of birth, his religion, his parents’ names and even his middle name have all been questioned by his opponents. These allegations have been laced with racial and religious undertones, namely that Barack Obama, the first non-white President of the United States, is both a foreigner and a Muslim.
It was obvious that the far right would question Obama’s legitimacy. They after all cannot stomach a black man being President of a country that only enshrined the right of black people to vote in 1965. But the conspiracy theories against Obama go way into the Republican mainstream and are at the heart of the Tea Party movement. Five out of the six national Tea Party organisations are led by people who question Obama’s birth place – a political grouping better known as ‘birthers’.
They include Amy Kremer, who was a keynote speaker at the Tea Party Express rally I attended yesterday and one of the leaders of the movement. In 2008 she wrote to Senator John McCain: “... he needs to tell Nobama to bring his authentic birth certificate to the debate. I am so tired of the spin from his spinmeisters! Johnny Mac ... just go straight to the source!”
On January 8, 2009, she wrote: “I have lost all hope on this issue of OBami’s eligibility to be President of the United States. I am totally disillusioned after sitting and watching Congress certify the Electoral College vote on CSPAN without one objection.”
Even Sarah Palin, darling of the Tea Party movement, has got in on the act. In a radio interview in December 2009 she was asked if she would make Obama’s birth certificate an issue in the 2012 Presidential campaign if she decided to run, to which she replied: “I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that.”
Fox News presenters and commentators regularly question Obama’s birthplace and religion, with many continuing to call him ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ with the obvious intention of linking him to Islam and the negative connotations that go with it. It is hardly surprising then that a poll in August found that 18% of Americans thought Obama was a Muslim, up from 11% in March. Among registered Republicans the figure was a shocking 34%. The Republican Party leadership does little to rectify this misconception.We must be careful not simply to dismiss the Birthers as just conspiracy nutjobs as they play an important role in delegitimising Barack Obama as President and racialising the political discourse. The Tea Party, and the 17% of the nation some polls claim they represent, talk about fiscal prudence and small government but race and national identity are still the cornerstone of their politics.
Posted: 1 Nov 2010 | There are 2 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 1 November 2010, 13:33
Yesterday I finally got to hear Christine O’Donnell at a Tea Party rally when I travelled down to Wilmington in Delaware to catch up with the Tea Party Express bus tour. Four hundred people braced the increasingly cold air to hear a range of speakers not only attack the Democrats but mainstream Republicans too.
It was a fascinating three hours as I got to talk, listen and engage with a number of people who really feel that their mission is to reclaim a lost country. “We have to fight socialism everywhere”, one Tea Party stallholder from Nevada told me. He had been following the trip since it set off 15 days ago. “This liberal progressive bullshit is infectious. It took over the Democratic Party and now it’s getting into the Republican Party.”
Speaker after speaker riled against their hate figures, Obama, of course, and especially the Democrat leaders in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. However, they were almost as vitriolic against Karl Rove, George Bush’s former adviser who has been an outspoken critic of the Tea Party movement. The crowd howled in outrage every time his name was mentioned.
The crowd was mostly elderly, virtually totally white and heavily ex-military. With many in the crowd waving American flags and even wearing a wide variety of patriotic clothing, I have to say that I was reminded of the Save Our Sovereignty rally in London in 2000. Then, as my memory recalls, a few thousand people, many dressed up in similar regalia to what I saw yesterday, demonstrated in protest over the liberal takeover of Britain.
It is interesting, however, to see the number of prominent women in the Tea Party movement, both as candidates and organisers. While the media like to mock Tea Party candidates and highlight their political shortcomings, it should be a sombering lesson for the political establishment that they are involving women in a way no other political organisation is. “Mummy grizzlies” as they are proud to define themselves are certainly at the forefront of the campaign.
Outwardly everyone was friendly and polite and the numerous black and Hispanic speakers and performers received warm applause. It was clear from the speakers and the literature available that the Tea Party was going out of its way to deny any association with racism. I’m sure to those gathered there they succeeded but racism is not very far aware. This morning I was greeted with an email in my inbox from Tea Party Nation, one of the six main national Tea Party organisations, demanding to see a copy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. “I would like to see the birth certificate of Barack Obama,” the email opened. “Not the certificate of live birth that he has been pushing, but the real one.” The allegation that Obama was born in Kenya, Indonesia and even Britain (so barring him from the office of President) has been pushed by rightwing conspiracy theorists since he became a Presidential candidate. I shall write more about this in a future blog, but the “Birthers”, as these conspiracy theorists are better known, are alive and well at the heart of the Tea Party movement. In fact, leaders of five of the six national Tea Party organisations are “birthers”.
The Huffington Post, a liberal US blogsite, reported that Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, sent out an email encouraging Minnesotans in the 5th Congressional District to vote out Rep. Keith Ellison (D) – in part because he’s a Muslim – by stating that he, as well as most Tea Party members, has serious qualms with Islam. This was quickly followed up with an interview where he said: “I personally have a real problem with Islam.” The Tea Party-supported candidate standing against Ellison, America’s only Muslim member of Congress, has been running a vicious anti-Islamic and conspiracy-ridden campaign.I’m not sure what I learnt from this experience but I do believe that in order to defeat the Tea Party, and their populist nationalist equivalents in Europe, we have to understand them. The media, both in the US and in the UK, like to mock them as individuals and laugh at their gaffes but I fear that this only reinforces their sense of victimhood and injustice and even confirms their belief that they need to win their country back.