Football hooligan links
The EDL is largely organised through what remains of the football hooligan network, and current and former football hooligans make up at least half of any EDL demonstration. Rival football gangs, who would normally fight one another at every opportunity, have come together for EDL events. For example, at a recent EDL protest in Leicester hooligans from local rivals Watford and Luton travelled up on a coach together. Wolves, West Brom and Aston Villa – three West Midlands clubs whose hooligan fans hate one another – join up at EDL events, as have Bradford and Leeds hooligans.
There have, however, still been clashes between different hooligan gangs at EDL events, and hooligan gangs in some cities where EDL protests have taken place have not taken kindly to the arrival of hooligans from other areas.
With so many supporters from football hooligan backgrounds it isn’t surprising that EDL demonstrations and violence go hand in hand.
Since its inception the EDL has staged over thirty protests across the country at which there have been violent clashes with both anti-fascist protesters and the police, leading to several hundred arrests in total. More than £5 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on policing these demonstrations. The violence directed at the police has grown in recent protests, for example in Leicester four police officers were put in hospital after they came under attack from EDL supporters armed with bottles, smoke grenades and even firecrackers, which were used to scare police horses.
In addition there is unquantifiable damage to businesses where the EDL holds protests, both physical damage to premises, fixtures and stock and loss of profits where businesses have to close or customers are put off coming into town. Such losses may not be covered by insurance, or insurance premiums may rise as a result.
The EDL focuses its protests on towns with large ethnic or more particularly large Muslim communities such as Bradford, Oldham, Leicester and Preston. After the EDL protest finished in Leicester hundreds of the participants went on the rampage in an attempt to attack the local Muslim community.
On some occasions mosques are daubed or damaged, or bacon or pig’s heads are placed on the premises.
The EDL is increasingly staging spontaneous “flash” protests to get around liaising with police over marches, which could be banned. In Oldham on the 2010 anniversary of 9/11, 120 EDL supporters at a “flash” protest clashed with police leading to eight arrests.
Individual EDL activists are staging increasingly provocative protests. In Gateshead six EDL supporters were arrested for inciting racial hatred after burning the Koran and posting a video of the event on YouTube, leading to clashes with the police as EDL supporters gathered outside the local police station. There have been other EDL activities in Blackburn, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Portsmouth, Nuneaton and Kingston – to name but a few.