Bristol, to the best of my knowledge, has not previously hosted an EDL demonstration. In years gone by, the idea that Bristol would come to host a large Muslim population was unthinkable, but today that situation has sadly changed. In Totterdown a mosque has appeared, its minaret dominating the local skyline like a missile aimed at the heart of the city. The largest resident Muslim population is Somali. Estimates that have frequently appeared in the media claim that the Somalis could number some 30,000, whereas a Bristol City Council document published in November 2010 was of the opinion that the range was more likely to be between 6,600 and 10,000. Whichever figure is selected, it is too high a number. What benefit accrues from their presence in Bristol? Why are they there, rather than in Somalia? If current trends continue, the Somali share of the population will grow rapidly, for in 2009 it was reported that 3.8% of Bristol schoolchildren were Somali, or one out of every 25. In 2001, the equivalent figure was only one in every 500. This growth has been fed both by immigration and high Somali fertility.
Totterdown Mosque (courtesy of Nicksarebi)
It comes as a surprise that there is a Council of Bristol Mosques, to which five mosques are affiliated, which nonetheless seems rather modest given estimated Muslim numbers. The first data from the 2011 Census will not be published until 16 July, but strangely, this will not contain any information on religion or ethnicity. It is therefore difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the size of Bristol's resident Muslim population, but one site propagandising Islam with the assistance of the BBC, using public funds provided by the local authority and Government Office South West, claims that there are 35,000 Muslims in the city. For those of us who knew Bristol 20 or 30 years ago, the emergence of such a population is staggering, as it has seemingly sprung out of nowhere.
What is the protest about?
Whereas elsewhere the EDL has generally used specific events that have occurred within a given locality as grounds for a demonstration, this does not seem to be the case in Bristol. The EDL explain their decision to hold a protest in the city on 14 July 2012 as follows:
The EDL are going to Bristol. We are going to Bristol because we wish to draw public attention to Islamic grooming, the refusal of Muslims to integrate into British society and the increasing attacks by Muslims on non-Muslim Britons.We are coming to Bristol to raise awareness of these problems and to call for a unified country under one democratic government, one law and one society grounded in British culture and traditions.We want to call attention to the creeping Islamisation of Britain, with the increased use of halal meat whether non-Muslims want it or not.We want to make people aware that our way of life and our culture are under threat from people who don’t care for our culture, country or humanity. They don’t care for our religions, politics, way of life, culture or traditions. They want to recreate 7th Century Arabia in Britain and they will lie, subvert and even kill to do it.
Given the experience of many other English towns and cities, as well as the general process of demographic Islamisation unfolding across the country, drawing attention to what has happened elsewhere and this general phenomenon could be adjudged to be worthwhile. However, it would perhaps be more effective were the EDL to highlight the deficits of multiculturalism and immigration policy, for without multiculturalist policies combined with mass immigration there would be no problem with Islamisation in this country, because the conditions that allow it would be removed at a stroke. Certainly, Stephen Lennon’s own statements regarding multiculturalism have been unclear, for on a number of occasions he has described the EDL as “multicultural”, whilst at other times criticising “multiculturalism”. It seems that he sometimes conflates “multiculturalism” and “multiracialism”, for the EDL is certainly multiracial, although predominantly English. The two are related, yet distinct.
The EDL's Opponents in Bristol
Although the EDL gives expression to many of the general public’s officially repressed suspicions and concerns relating to Islamic issues in England today, the EDL has no friends in high places, and has to confront three primary sources of opposition emanating from: 1) mainstream politicians and the mass media; 2) the self-styled ‘anti-fascist’ movement encompassing the trades unions and a range of far-left fringe groups and campaigns: UAF, Hope Not Hate, Searchlight, Love Music Hate Racism, various ‘unity’ front groups for the SWP and sundry independent anarchist groups; 3) Islamists and the wider Muslim population. All three forms of opposition intersect, with each attempting to make parasitic political capital out of the EDL. None of the EDL’s opponents are interested in portraying what the EDL really is, and the ‘anti-fascist’ propagandists of the second group enjoy the uncritical attention of the media. All however are united in their mutually profitable desire to manufacture the sense of a ‘far-right’ threat, whilst ignoring and facilitating the spread of the real ultra-reactionary ‘far-right’ in the form of Islamism.
Returning to the specifics of the Bristol demo on 14 July, the opposition from the first group enumerated has already been not-so-subtly voiced by the BBC, which stated in a story run on 14 June:
Why did it open this story referring to the cost of the demo? How many BBC reports about forthcoming demonstrations, involving trades unions for example, are prefaced with such information, particularly citing such large figures? Although the article makes reference to the counterdemonstrators who oppose the EDL, it does not make clear that police concerns over public disorder arise largely from likely attempts by the Trotskyist SWP and anarchist-related self-styled ‘antifascist’ groups to provoke a violent clash with the EDL. Why did it choose to omit this information? Of course, there have been violent incidents at previous EDL demonstrations involving their supporters, and these cannot be justified, but a far larger number of their opponents have been arrested for public disorder and assault. Although the BBC did on this occasion refrain from describing the EDL as ‘far-right’ (a very rare honour for the broadcaster to withhold this slur), its reporting of the forthcoming march has in no way been balanced.
However, in the video below taken from an episode of the BBC’s Sunday Politics West, the EDL is repeatedly described as ‘far-right’, although the additional policing costs are cited as £500,000 rather than the £1 million stated on the website.
The opposition of the second group, which can be subsumed under the heading of ‘antifascists’, has manifested itself in a number of ways. An online petition has been set up, calling for the EDL demo to be banned. As of the evening of 25 June, this had attracted 1,970 signatures. The SWP-dominated UAF has also set up a front campaign named We are Bristol which is supported by leading members of a number of trades unions including: the CWU, FBU, NUJ, NUT, PCS, RMT and Unison. Other supporting bodies include the Bristol Labour Party; Bristol Anarchist Federation, Bristol Antifascists and Bristol Queercafe. Representatives from this SWP front group met on 11 June to discuss tactics for opposing the EDL’s demonstration. In support of this, they have produced various pieces of inflammatory campaign literature that I have reproduced below to give the reader a flavour of the far-from-peaceful mindset of these so-called ‘antifascists’.
UPDATE 9 July: The SWP front group 'We are Bristol' has been very successful in spreading its message, as although the city's council leader - Simon Cook - has declined to participate in the anti-EDL demonstration, he has stated: "We have made absolutely clear that we do not agree with their extremist views and do not want them in Bristol." However, unlike the SWP and UAF he added: "They are not a proscribed organisation and have a right to march." The 'This is Bristol' website which ran the story once again quoted the alleged £500,000 price tag for policing the EDL demo. Cook's even-handed position has upset both Islamophobia Watch and MPACUK.
Bristol's Antifa Propaganda Gallery