Saturday, 21 August 2010

EDL Bradford ban

The EDL have been banned from marching in Bradford on 28 August. After a campaign supported by many thousands of people, the Home Office has agreed to back calls from Bradford Council to prohibit the march.

When the EDL first came to Birmingham, the police went out of their way to claim it was just another political protest; taking the claims of non-violence from the EDL at face value. Since then the EDL gangs have shown their true colours, not least in Dudley where they once again went on the rampage in an attempt to attack the local Muslim community. Freedom of expression is an important right. But nobody should have the right to organise a campaign of violence and intimidation against others because of their religious beliefs. The true nature of these thugs is finally dawning on the authorities. I hope that this ban will allow the police to do their job and protect Bradford from violent racist gangs seeking to provoke a dangerous confrontation.
But any ban only applies to marches. Static demonstrations will still be allowed, and the EDL will still gather in large numbers in Bradford. The police will have to escort the EDL to the assembly point, with the potential for trouble en route. And previous static demonstrations by the EDL have turned violent as they attempt to break through police lines.

The EDL want to provoke conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. They hate our diverse and multicultural society and want to destroy our unity. We should not rise to their bait. In 2001, similar racist provocations led to violence on the streets of Bradford. Two hundred people were convicted of riot and violent disorder, many receiving extremely harsh prison sentences. We need to confront the threat of the EDL peacefully and in a way that builds unity between communities.

When the EDL show their face, we should respond wherever possible with a peaceful demonstration of our unity. On 28 August in Bradford, Unite Against Fascism is organising exactly that: celebration of unity and our multicultural society. The event is supported by a wide range of politicians, faith groups and community leaders, and also by my Respect colleagues in Bradford. I hope this event is a successful demonstration that Bradford will not be divided by hate.