The omens are not good
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 5 February 2011, 08:00
I have to say that at first I thought it was a sick joke. On the day that thousands of right-wing extremists plan to march against Muslims in Luton, David Cameron decides to launch his own attack on multiculturalism and in particular the behaviour of some Muslims. I have not read in full details what he is planning to say today but the headlines play directly into the hands of the English Defence League.
I really hope today passes off peacefully. There are 2,000 officers on duty today, with many more in reserve, but this still might not be enough. The EDL are expecting in excess of 5,000 supporters to descend on the town, where they will be met by anti-fascist protesters at one end of the town and a large mobilisation of the local Muslim community at the other. Throw in groups of far-right activists, some from abroad, who are not aligned to the EDL but are making their way here for a fight, such as the Swedes I bumped into last night who know little about the EDL but were simply here for trouble.
On the other side there will be a big mobilisation from Anjem Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun extremists. Luton is their base and there seems little chance that they will miss the chance to perform in front of the world’s media. He had a hundred out on a protest outside the Egyptian embassy yesterday so we can only expect many more today. Obviously they will be heavily outnumbered by the EDL but it could take only a handful of waving inflammatory signs to incite a violent reaction from the right-wing hooligans.
The policing for today leaves a lot to be desired and the more I hear about the tactics and attitudes of the local police operation the more I am concerned. The route the police have given the EDL will take them within a few minutes’ walk of the main Muslim neighbourhood in the town and where locals, including Choudary’s gang, are meeting. Unlike Leicester and Bradford, where the police went out of their way to reassure local communities, Bedfordshire police appear to have bent over backwards to accommodate the EDL’s demands much to the annoyance of many in Luton.
Barriers and road blocks are being erected across the town. Dozens of shops have been boarded up and there is palpable tension in the air. There has been some amazing work by individuals and groups over the past few weeks to promote a peaceful Luton and try to reassure local people. Let’s hope that they emerge victorious from today and the town can slowly return to normal and heal the wounds caused by the EDL’s protest. I fear though that Cameron’s speech, and the way it is being reported, has only added fuel to the fire.
I’ll be blogging all day today. We have teams out across the town so hopefully I’ll be able to give accurate and instant reporting of events.
Posted: 5 Feb 2011 | There are 1 comments
Comment 1 | From: Steph P. | Date: 5 February 2011, 10:46
I must say that I was absolutely disgusted with what Mr. Cameron said and the results from that survey that claimed almost a quarter of British people thought that immigrants shouldn't be allowed access to the NHS or state schools. It's not good at all that these things are happening at the same time as an EDL march. Good article. =)
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