On Sunday 6 May thousands of far-right anti-Muslim bigots will be marching through central London, anti-fascists from across the country need to take to the streets to oppose them.
When Darren Osborne drove a van into a group of Muslims outside Finsbury Park Mosque, killing Makram Ali and injuring at least eight others, he had tweets by Tommy Robinson printed out and stuck to the dashboard of the van. Over the course of Osborne's trial it was revealed he had been following Robinson on Twitter and been signed up to an email list which Robinson used to mobilise people for anti-Muslim protests.
These facts being the case, it is clear that Tommy Robinson is an anti-Muslim hate preacher whose violent rhetoric radicalises killers.
Since forming the English Defence League (EDL) back in 2009, Robinson has been stirring up hatred against Muslims, dehumanising them to such an extent that his followers have already started killing. Osborne isn't the only follower of Robinson to use violence against Muslims in the UK. There have been many others and there will continue to be many more. Robinson may be trying to re-invent himself as a journalist, but he's still pushing the same hatred.
Unsurprisingly, Robinson has refused to accept any responsibility for radicalising Osborne and is doing everything he can to distance himself from the role he played. Rather than take responsibility, Robinson is trying to claim everybody pointing the finger at him, from journalists to the police, as being part of a vast conspiracy to silence him.
But even the most casual look at Robinson's track record makes plain his role in whipping up hatred. In 2011, speaking at an EDL rally, Robinson said: "To every single Muslim watching this on Youtube. On 7/7 you got away with killing and maiming British citizens ... you had better understand that we have built a network from one end of the country to the other end ... and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defense League if we see any of our British citizens killed, maimed, or hurt on British soil ever again."
In 2017, shortly after the Manchester Arena attack, Robinson stood outside a mosque in the city, declaring: "When you see these communities and you see these houses, you might think this is a British community or you might have British Muslims; they are enemy combatants in these houses. In these houses are enemy combatants who want to kill you, maim you and destroy you. They want to destroy our way of life."
Predictably, when the enemy becomes every single Muslim living in Britain, regardless of their actions or political views, vigilinate action against ordinary people becomes the logical next step: "If we don't get this issue dealt with, then the British public will. They will end up taking matters into their own hands ... Militias will be set up and then the UK government will have a problem beyond their wildest dreams. Inaction will only facilitate the creation of a disgruntled and angry population who will end up cleaning out this Islamic problem." That Darren Osbourne, a fantatical follower of Robinson on social media, was overheard in the pub the night before the attack calling himself "a soldier" and claiming "all Muslims are terrorists" should surprise no one; it's Tommy Robinson's narrative almost to the letter.
More than nine months after Osborne's attack, Twitter decided to permanently ban Robinson from Twitter, removing the account which was directly linked to the attack. As a result of having his Twitter account deleted Robinson is now organising a march from Marble Arch to Twitter's office on Air Street in Soho. He's claiming this in defence of freedom of speech. But Robinson's belief in free speech is about as principled as his belief in journalistic ethics. He certainly didn't believe in free speech when he called for Didsbury Mosque to be closed down or when he called for Islam to be banned from being registered as a religion. Nor are his followers really supporters of free speech, as can be seen when one of them, with no sense of irony, held up a placard saying "Censor Islam Not Speech" at Robinson's most recent rally.
Calling on the state to shut down institutions you don't like or censor entire religions is far more of an attack on freedom of speech than having one of your social media accounts taken away. But the reality is, like at other so called 'free speech' events he's organised over the past month, Robinson and his followers are not civil rights campaigners; they are the same racist cranks and anti-Muslim fanatics who have been following him for years.
When Robinson gave a speech by a racist who has been banned from the UK last month, hundreds of far-right football hooligans turned up to support him, many of whom had been involved in the EDL. On arrival at Hyde Park they steamed into a group of young Muslims who had turned up to oppose Robinson. Over the years many of the marches organised by Robinson have seen violence directed towards ethnic minorities or the left; the march on Twitter is unlikely to be any different.
Robinson left the EDL years ago, but he has repeatedly shown a desire to return to the front-line of anti-Muslim street politics. First with his complete flop Pegida UK, then with 'UK Against Hate' which saw six thousand of his supporters rampage through Manchester last June waving pig heads, abusing Sikhs feeding the homeless, and violently attacking left-wing counter-protesters. As the 'anti-extremist' Football Lads Alliance (FLA) has emerged, bringing thousands of hooligans onto the streets over the past year, Robinson has tried to position himself as a leader. When he attended their protests in Birmingham last weekend he couldn't go anywhere without being stopped for selfies by adoring supporters.
When Robinson marches through Central London on Sunday 6 May he's likely to be backed by thousands of his supporters. FLA groups have said they will be supporting him and Generation Identity will see this as another opportunity to recruit people to their crusade against Muslims. Milo Yiannopoulos is also flying back to the UK to address the rally. Robinson is using losing his Twitter account as just another opportunity to bring his anti-Muslim supporters out onto the streets and this ranges from people like the Breitbart London team whose function is to provide slick media spin for far-right talking points all the way through to people like Osborne who are prepared to kill.
Robinson cannot be allowed to march through central London unopposed. Anti-fascists need to mobilise on a national (if not international) level to oppose this march. Because if anti-fascists do not it will be a huge boost for the far-right street movement in Britain. The British left can mobilise thousands of people when the whole of the left is mobilising. We need to see one of those mobilisations happen. There needs to be coaches from every major urban area in the country, groups travelling in cars and on trains from elsewhere. Radical groups in London need to get their members to open their homes to people from outside the city so we can host the numbers of people prepared to take a stand against anti-Muslim hatred. People in London need to be mobilising their networks of comrades and their wider communities.
We live in one of the most diverse cities on the planet, we can't allow several thousand far-right activists to march through it's heart unopposed.