Defence League network

The Defence League network is a network of offshoots of the English Defence League (EDL), launched post-2009 to form an international Defence League movement in…

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Chapter : Defence League network

The Defence League network is a network of offshoots of the English Defence League (EDL), launched post-2009 to form an international Defence League movement in opposition to the perceived ‘Islamisation’ of Europe and the wider world.

In 30 October 2010 there was an attempt to form the European Defence League in Amsterdam, though the demonstration was poorly attended and there has been little international co-ordination since. The European Defence League, which is allied to the European Freedom Initiative (EFI), has been dominated by the English Defence League, its only successful branch.

The European Defence League was re-launched at a European counter-jihad rally of national Defence Leagues and counter-jihadist activists in Århus, Denmark on 31 March 2012, which was attended by Defence League groups from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, UK, Germany and Russia.

Since then, the European Defence League has become increasingly fractured as national Defence Leagues have faced a series of internal splits and a struggle to distance themselves from more hardline nazi groups.

Some of the groups in the network have become inactive while others continue to exist in a much-diminished form. However, its collaborative front is no longer active and its Facebook page simply shares anti-Muslim content. Some of the activists and groups have become involved in the international Pegida network instead.


Danish Defence League (DDL)

Finnish Defence League (FDL)

Dutch Defence League (DDL)

Norwegian Defence League (NDL)

Polish Defence League (PDL)

English Defence League (EDL)

Scottish Defence League (SDL)

Australian Defence League (ADL)

Swedish Defence League (SDL)

Danish Defence League (DDL)

Leaders: Lars Grønbæk Larsen

The Danish Defence League (DDL) was founded in 2011. However there was a major split within the organisation towards the end of that year, with four sections and more than 25 members leaving, following allegations of embezzlement and the use of undemocratic methods by some in the leadership.

The DDL then reformed and rose to prominence on the counter-jihad scene as it hosted the European counter-jihad relaunch rally of the European Defence League in Århus, Denmark on 31 March 2012.

In autumn 2012, the then-leader of the DDL, Kasper Mortensen, was arrested and remanded in police custody and subsequently replaced by Philip Traulsen. The DDL under Traulsen’s leadership was much diminished and increasingly developed links to nazi groups. Traulsen has previously been involved with Denmark’s National Front and has attended events held by the nazi music network, Blood & Honour.

Other DDL members have also been associated with nazi activity. Several members have been active in the nazi Danskernes Party, led by Daniel Carlsen. DDL member Jonas Holtet Bolvig has a tattoo of the Nazi Party symbol, while Jimmie Hørskov Juhler, Treasurer and Vice-President of DDL, updated his profile picture on Facebook to an image of himself photoshopped as the infamous self-portrait of Breivik posing with a gun, as a tribute to the Norwegian terrorist.

The DDL’s summer festival, held in Rødovre in 2013 saw attendees from the then-secret network ‘Nationale Arrangementer På Tværs’, a group with links to the white pride movement and violent far-right members from the now-defunct Vederfølner and nazi Danskernes Party.

In January 2015, Philip Traulsen resigned as spokesman for DDL and also resigned from the organisation. He has been replaced by former spokesman and chairman of the right-wing Vederfølner, Lars Grønbæk Larsen.

More recently Larsen has attended For Frihed (Pegida DK) demonstrations including one in January 2016 that was also attended by English Defence League founder Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), then-of Pegida UK. In June 2016 Lars Grønbæk Larsen announced that he had joined the newly-founded right-wing party, Nye Borgerlige.

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Finnish Defence League (FDL)

Founder: Mimosa Kolranen (aka Mimosa Dedanann)

Chairman: Jukka Ketonen

Vice Chairman: Kim Larni

Secretary: Ninni Nurminen.

Members of the Board: Sami Luoma, Marko Parkkola.

The FDL was founded in May 2011 as a part of the European Defence League Network and is linked to the European Freedom Initiative.

Leader Mimosa Kolranen addressed the re-launch rally of the European Defence League in Århus, Denmark on 31 March 2012. The group has claimed to have members in 90 different locations in Finland.

In 2016 the FDL continued to have tiny demonstrations with one in Helsinki in April seeing roughly 30 people in attendance.  The group held a demonstration as recently as 9 August 2017 in Helsinki with speakers including Jukka Wallin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Finnish Democrats, a member of Soldiers of Odin and Maria Kaljuste, President of the Fortress Europe initiative.

The outfit has organised the FDL Academy since 2016 to train activists.

As of January 2018, the group’s Facebook page has 11,800 Likes and remains very active.

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Dutch Defence League (DDL)

Leader: Raffie Chohan and Maarten Hoekwater

Founded in September 2010, the Dutch Defence League (DDL) organised a pro-Geert Wilders rally in Amsterdam on 30 October 2010 on behalf of the European Freedom Initiative (EFI), which had been heralded as the launch of a European Defence League.

However the event was a failure and the DDL collapsed soon after. In December 2010 the group staged a demonstration against Iran but fewer than ten people participated.

In 2014 Raffie Chohan and her husband Maarten Hoekwater launched a new DDL, and in May that year they organised a march in Rotterdam that was attended by roughly 40 people. In October and November 2015 the DDL organised a joint demonstration with the Dutch Pegida branch.

At a Pegida demonstration in Utrecht in October 2016 Chohan claimed that “massive inbreeding in Islamic culture causes almost irreversible damage to the intelligence and mental health of Muslims”. She was later fined 800 euros for discrimination, incitement to hatred and insult to Muslims.

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Norwegian Defence League (NDL)

The Norwegian Defence League was formed in 2010 but quickly split into two groups after a dispute over the leadership. The largest group was led by Ronny Alte from Tønsberg, who created a NDL Facebook group with some friends that gathered more than 500 members, including convicted nazis and exiled Russians belonging to the banned Slavic Union.

One of the Russians was Vjoteslav Datsik, who walked into an Oslo police station in 2010 and applied for political asylum while waving a handgun. 

Anders Behring Breivik was an online supporter of the Norwegian Defence League. Other supporters had previously been involved in the Norwegian Blood & Honour network.

The English Defence League had close links with the NDL. In April 2011 the NDL held a demonstration in Oslo. Speaking at the event was London-based EDL activist Darren Lee Marsh.

A new leadership emerged in early 2011, led by Håvar Krane and then Lena Anderson. They organised a demonstration in Oslo in April 2011, attended by just ten people.

Anderson has admitted being in contact with Anders Breivik, when he was a member of the NDL and before his expulsion from the organisation in 2011 (Dagbladet, 13 October 2011). She also had relationships with Alan Ayling and several members of the EDL. It later emerged that anti-racist group SOS Racism had persuaded Håvar Krane to take the leadership of the NDL.

The group seemed to disintegrate after the Breivik killings, though re-emerged, probably stronger than ever, under Ronny Alte’s leadership. Between ten-fifteen NDL supporters attended the Defence League demonstration in Denmark in March 2012.

On 28 February 2013, newspaper Verdens Gang wrote that the NDL had published a list of Muslims on its web page. The list had been compiled on the basis of listings in the Public Entity Registry. Lars Johnny Aardal, deputy leader of the NDL, said that it was published “to show the extent of Islam and Muslims in Norway”.

On 19 April 2012, during the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, Ronny Alte, who had been called to witness for the Defence, announced his resignation from both his position on the organisation’s leadership group (known as ‘the admins’), and from the NDL. Alte claimed that he had wanted to distance himself from Breivik as much as possible. Alte has since been noted as head of his own Pegida faction, so far without any visible success.

In cooperation with Stop Islamisation of Norway, the NDL held its first successful public rally in Stavanger on 23 June 2012.

The NDL Facebook page is still very active, and as of January 2018 had 28,000 Likes.

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Polish Defence League (PDL)

The Polish Defence League was formed in 2010 by Dariusz Brodzik and Rene Buller and later pulled out of the European Defence League Network.

One of the leaders, Piotr Kaczmarczyk, failed to show up to the European Defence League demonstration in Århus, Denmark in March 2012 where he was scheduled to speak.

The PDL appeared to increase its activity from October 2013 when it announced it was not part of the European Defence League Network but was focused on maintaining Poland’s Christian heritage in the face of the “Islamisation” of Europe.

The group applies intimidating methods, occupying meetings of Polish Muslims, visiting mosques and staging stunts and protests. It also runs anti-immigrant petitions in an attempt to lobby the Polish Government.

In 2013, the PDL began staging “patrols” in Warsaw, Poznan and Krakow to escort Polish girls and women home after a night of clubbing, “to ensure they don’t become victims to the epidemic of Muslim gang-rapes”, despite Poland having one of the smallest Muslim populations in Europe.

The group’s website – which states that co-founder Rene Buller is no longer part of the organisation – posted regularly until May 2017.

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English Defence League (EDL)

Leader: Ian Crossland

Co-founders: Steven Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), Kevin Carroll, Alan Ayling, Paul Ray, Christopher Knowles, Ann Marchini and Jerry Watson.

The English Defence League (EDL) was founded in the summer of 2009 and soon became an amalgamation of smaller anti-Muslim street groups, such as the British Citizens Against Muslim Extremists (also founded in 2009) and Casuals United. 

Once the premier anti-Muslim street movement in Europe, the group reached its peak in 2011. Since former leader Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) quit in 2013, the group has rapidly declined and now exists as a pale shadow of its former self.

The impetus was the formation of the United People of Luton (UPL), which was set up by local football hooligans in response to an al-Muhajiroun demonstration against the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment. The leaders of the UPL were invited to London and, during a meeting with Alan Ayling and his friends, the idea of a national organisation emerged.

The group engages in provocative direct action demonstrations aimed at the Muslim community. Its modus operandi is:

  • Threats and intimidation of councils and public bodies undertaking their civic responsibilities to the wider community.
  • The swarming and the shutting down of shopping areas and precincts at short notice by way of flash demonstrations to affect businesses and the commercial interests of communities.
  • The promotion and encouragement of violence and disorder by recruited and organised football hooligan gangs to stretch police and community resources.
  • The forcing of their will, misunderstandings and prejudices upon the wider community.
  • To foster disharmony and hatred and exacerbate community divisions to leave in their wake explosive tensions between other minority communities and interests.

The EDL has held over 100 demonstrations in more than 50 towns and cities since its founding. It established a network of Regional Organisers in July 2010 and has a youth-wing, English Defence Youth (EDY), founded in 2009, which has claimed 300 members. The EDL has also launched Faith-based Defence Leagues under the Jewish, Hindu and Sikh banners.

EDL demonstrations have been attended by members and former members of the British National Party (BNP), the National Front (NF) and even more extreme organisations such as the British People’s Party (BPP), British Freedom Fighters (BFF), Racial Volunteer Force (RVF), Blood & Honour (B&H) and Combat 18 (C18).

The EDL announced at a meeting of Regional Organisers and activists in the West Midlands on 19 November 2011 that it had agreed to enter into a political alliance with the British Freedom Party (BFP) to enable it to enter electoral politics for the first time.

In May 2012 then EDL leader Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) and his deputy, Kevin Carroll, became joint Vice-Chairmen of the British Freedom Party, a BNP splinter group. However, many supporters were unhappy with this, and the alliance soon collapsed.

The EDL also developed an international strategy and networks, establishing links with like-minded counter-jihad organisations in mainland Europe and North America, including neoconservative organisations and the anti-Islam wing of the Tea Party movement in the United States. For a period it became a prominent player on the international counter-jihad scene and was lauded by supporters around the world. However, what foreign Defence Leagues do still exist are very small and overall the EDL’s attempts to build a functioning international network have been unsuccessful.

Since its peak, when it could attract thousands of people to demonstrations, the EDL has gone into rapid decline and now barely attracts a few hundred to public events. The EDL has been severely weakened by numerous splits and defections that have resulted in a far more disparate and fractured street movement scene. Groups such as the South East Alliance and the various Infidel branches have all emerged out of the EDL.

The EDL had a brief bounce in popularity after the tragic murder of soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of London in May 2013. However, the real hammer blow came in October 2013 when founder and leader Lennon and deputy Carroll left in a media blaze.

The EDL was thrown into turmoil and has never really recovered. Following a period of splits and infighting the group settled under the leadership of Steve ‘Edders’ Eddowes and, more recently, Ian Crossland, although it is a shadow of its former self.

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Scottish Defence League (SDL)

Prominent activist: Sean Graham

Founded in September 2009 as a sister organisation of the EDL, the Scottish Defence League was set up by, amongst others, the hooligan Inter-City Firm (ICF) attached to Glasgow Rangers FC. The SDL joined the breakaway Infidels of Britain coalition on 2 April 2011.

The SDL held a series of demos between 2009 and 2013 in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lockerbie, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Berwick and Dundee. More recently, they held protests against refugees’ housing in Alloa on 11 March 2017 and in Wishaw on 15 April, as well as in Perth on September 10 2017 to protest the building of a mosque.

The group’s main Facebook page remains active and, as of January 2018, has more than 14,500 Likes.

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Australian Defence League (ADL)

Leader: Shermon Burgess

The ADL first appeared in New South Wales in early 2010, as an informal project of members of the Australian Protectionist Party (APP) inspired by the emergence of the EDL.

The departure of former leader Ralph Cerminara saw Shermon Burgess from Cooma, New South Wales, take the reins. Burgess, who runs a YouTube channel as “The Great Aussie Patriot”, was an early activist of the Australian Defence League, a spokesperson for Reclaim Australia and later the leader of the United Patriots Front until he stood down in October 2015.

Burgess was also a guitarist in a band called the ‘Eureka Brigade’ whose songs included ‘ADL Killing Machine’, ‘Shit on a Mosque’ and ‘Torpedo the Boats’. While claiming only to attack militant Islam there are numerous examples of Burgess vilifying all Muslims and his online presence means he is one of the best-known organisers of Australian anti-Muslim street protests.

The group has failed to hold demonstrations with any significant numbers and had its main Facebook page shut down in April 2014.

To coincide with an international counter-jihad event planned for 10 October 2015, the ADL called for demonstrations outside City Halls across Australia. The results included an anti-mosque demo in Bendigo, Victoria and an event in Brisbane. They were also one of the participating groups in a ‘Shut down Parramatta Mosque’ event in western Sydney on 9 October 2015. Since 2016 the ADL has become largely inactive on the streets.

Various ADL Facebook pages and groups exist, but as of January 2018 its most active page has 7,400 Likes.

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Swedish Defence League (SDL)

Leader: Kamil Ryba

Founded at the beginning of 2011, members of the Swedish Defence League attended the EDL demonstration in Luton in February 2011. Several SDL supporters were at the European Defence League demonstration in Århus, Denmark, in March 2012 where then-EDL leader Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) announced that the next demonstration would be organised by the SDL in Malmö, Sweden. The anti-extremist magazine Expo reported that the SDL speaker at the event, Isak Nygren, arrived alone.

SDL was supposed to have a speaker and new spokesman, Richard Abrahamsson, at the Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) demonstration in Stockholm in 2012. However just a few days before the demo he was kicked out of the organisation after blogging about a plan to “reclaim the swastika”.

In 2014, Kamil Ryba, head of the Swedish Defence League, was sentenced to six months in prison for threatening the staff at GT, the Göteborg edition of the Swedish Daily Expressen.  Kamil Ryba seems to have taken up residency in Norway. Spokesman Vasili Richardson is also closely linked to Dispatch International.

The group now appears to be dormant but it maintains a closed Facebook group for its 370 members, administered by Vasili Richardson. As of January 2018, the group also maintains an active Facebook page with over 10,100 Likes.

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