Published on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 03:51 Written by Ketlan Ossowski
EDL supporters at the railway station for Hebden Bridge
The turnout at English Defence League demonstrations is rapidly decreasing. From regular crowds of well over a thousand, numbers have dropped dramatically: Rochdale last Saturday saw a total of 436 attending, for example, and that was for what was billed as a national demo.
Back in April, Blackburn was treated to a demonstration of around 2,000, with all the consequent trouble that's generally part of an EDL and friends get-together - five mosques were vandalised and the words BNP and EDL were spray-painted all over the place.
At the same time, it was reported that a Unite Against Fascism conference had come under attack from the EDL over in Liverpool, though the attackers were fended off.
This seems to have been the beginning of a disturbing trend where small and less-defendable targets are chosen either as a diversion from a larger event or as a target in itself. The Jubilee weekend saw at least two attacks by Infidels or Casuals (both more violent offshoots of the EDL) and past weeks have seen attacks on people selling the Socialist Worker newspaper, folk running pro-Palestine stalls and, on one occasion last week, even saw an anti-royal protestor set on fire.
Following the Rochdale piss-up and firework-throwing frenzy, a bunch of people from the EDL made their way to Hebden Bridge, a tiny town in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, which is some 14 miles from Rochdale. Hebden Bridge's only real claim to fame is that it has become something of a hippy enclave over the past few years - a bit like Brighton but with less political activism.
For some reason, around thirty EDL louts, male and female, parked themselves outside the Shoulder of Mutton pub and began shouting anti-Muslim abuse. Curious, because as far as anyone local knows, there are no Muslims in Hebden Bridge and certainly no mosques, with or without a 'radical' cleric.
According to a report posted on Indymedia, when confronted by local anti-fascists the EDL became aggressive, with one supporter punching an anti-fascist and receiving a caution from the useless local police.
Locals saw this as an attack on anti-fascists rather than any kind of opposition to radical Islam particularly as the anti-fascists were constantly verbally abused from the moment they arrived, and referred to as 'traitors', a favourite insult of everyone on the far-right towards anyone they perceive as slightly to the left of Genghis Khan.
At the same time as this was going on, a group of EDL activists also attacked a Socialist Worker stall in Nottingham, hurling abuse at the SWP and throwing bottles at them until the police moved them on.
With ever-dwindling numbers demoralising the thugs on the streets, it's my belief that the organisers of the EDL and its allied groups are being led into attacking smaller and easier targets, thus requiring smaller groups which can be gathered together quickly and quietly - what the EDL refers to as flash-mobs. The police find these more difficult to handle as they can appear, do some damage, then race off to the nearest pub or hop on the next train home.
If this is the case and this is a deliberate tactic being employed by the likes of the EDL, Casuals and Infidels, precautions should be taken by activists who may be perceived as opposing the far-right, while gathering signatures for petitions, selling newspapers or handing out leaflets in their town centres.
For a start, a telephone tree would be useful. We have one here in my home town and it has enabled us to respond quickly, efficiently and en masse whenever the likes of the BNP have stuck their ugly mugs above the parapet anywhere in the area. Better though, is if activists network with each other, making sure that threats, whether direct or via the internet, are exposed and that others are warned immediately.
If the EDL and its myrmidons are met with a large and disparate bunch of opponents everywhere it goes, large or small, the demoralisation will continue and worsen until, with luck, they'll all push off to the pub and drink themselves to death rather than making a mess of our town centres and annoying people with their racist stupidities.