The EDL, the BNP and the possible co-operation of local football firm ‘the Naughty Forty’ has serious public order implications at the January demonstration in Stoke.
The sudden stepping down of Stoke BNP group leader councillor Alby Walker interestingly coincides with growing anxieties over the January protest by the EDL in the same city, the potential support of local BNP members, the involvement of the local football firm and an enormous bill for heavy policing. Following the EDL’s last performance, the cost to Nottingham is now put at £200,000. This does not bode well for the forthcoming EDL shindig. The way to avoid a repeat of this large sum being passed onto the people of Stoke is to ban the demonstration.
Alby Walker has stepped down as group leader after 3 years amidst “rumours of growing friction within the group over its future leadership and political direction.” He is only 1 of 9 other councillors but this still bodes ill for Stoke BNP as Walker is seen as someone who can actually perform rudimentary council work. It is a generally acknowledged fact that BNP councillors do not have a great record: when they realise that they are not leading the Aryan revolution but have to sit in on dull meetings about street lights and refuse collection many first lose interest and then their positions through laziness, boredom or failure to get re-elected. The list of crap councillors is as entertaining as it is inept.
However, Stoke BNP are seen by some to have created a stronghold and one that is unwilling to be influenced by party HQ down south or by other northern Nazi factions. One poster on the Northwest Nationalist forum claims: “Stoke BNP have been rather strange. They seem to have kept themselves away from both Griffin and us.” Another replied: “Stoke BNP have got it right, they don’t like interference from head or regional office and have some great people … Stoke is BNP heaven for canvassing.” Stoke has a large white working class community and their various resentments are something that the BNP have capitalised on.
The Stoke Firm
Stoke City’s football firm The Naughty 40 or N40 have established a reputation for being game. The Stoke hooligans were also involved with the Oldham riots in 2001 when the N40 joined up with Oldham’s Fine Young Casuals and caused mayhem. However, Mark Chester, N40 member and author, thinks that this connection was overplayed and wrote “with the Stoke firm racism was never an issue, so never on our agenda – and I must reiterate that.” They had originally gone for a ruck with the Oldham lads but then became embroiled in the rioting. Whether the N40 still comply with Mark Chester’s sentiments will be seen in January.
It is important to understand the football firm mentality here. Despite the fact that many teams are sworn enemies and harbour long held grudges, during England games in particular, these rivalries are often put aside for the ‘greater good’ of ‘supporting’ England by smashing up bars and urinating in the streets. In 2001, the Stoke and Oldham firms put their differences aside and attacked the Asian community, sparking reprisals. Although the EDL/Casuals United comprise many different firms it is unlikely that the N40 will attack them for ‘taking liberties’ on their turf. Firms have long kept in regular contact through mobile phones and the internet to organise rows but despite this technology the increased surveillance and heavy policing means it is very difficult for them to meet up. What the EDL does is give the chance for firms to get together, drink heavily and have a go at the police and any Muslim or anti-fascist protestors whilst carrying out a ‘legitimate political protest.’ Something which they are unable to do on match day. It is a justifiable fear that the N40 may well link up with local BNP supporters and the EDL with the inevitable outcome of multiple arrests, scuffling, the EDL being kettled into a Wetherspoon’s or similar and the people of Stoke ending up paying for it all.
The EDL, Nazis & The BNP
The EDL continued claims to be non-violent, non-racist, non-BNP and non-Nazi have been shown time and again to be a complete and utter falsehood. A quick survey of arrests at EDL demos seems to counter any idea that they are for peaceful purposes. They claim to our English heritage but how urinating on Nottingham Castle does this remains unclear. 16 EDL were arrested in Nottingham, 7 on Public Order Offences. The documentary footage clearly shows the EDL having a go at the cops when they were kettled in at the Castle. At the Manchester do police arrested 44:
“Twenty-nine were arrested on suspicion of public order offences, four were arrested for affray, three for possession of an offensive weapon – one of whom was also arrested for possession of drugs. Three men were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences. Five were arrested for on suspicion of breach of the peace.
Hardly non-violent: a further 90 arrested in Birmingham in September and 35 at the one in July. There have been skirmishes with opposing demonstrators but the majority of friction is between the EDL and the cops. The EDL does not seem to be promoting peaceful demonstrations in any way and whatever the leadership says about liaising with the cops, video evidence shows that they have little control over who comes on the demos and how they behave. The EDL claim to be not-anti-Islam but anti-Extremism but how these demonstrations actually stop this is extremely vague. Picketing a mosque is one thing but holing up in city centre pubs with the inevitable police containment seems pointless and further illustrates the fact that they just want to drink, fight and cause trouble.
There are documented examples of the EDL singing racist songs like and images of them Sieg-Heiling. Despite attempting to stamp out the Sieg Heil brigade the leadership of the EDL have systematically failed to do so. Any resolution of demonstrators to not salute is swiftly dissolves in gallons of lager. As for the claims to be multi-ethnic, the vast majority of people on their demos appear to be white, shaven headed, angry looking geezers.
Despite the BNP’s Nick Griffin calling the EDL a “proscribed organisation” members are clearly involved and have been connected to the EDL, not least the likes of Chris Renton who set up the website and Liverpool BNP member Liam Pinkham, who has been done for racially aggravated intentional harassment. The EDL claim to hate Nazis and there was an altercation earlier this year between Combat 18 members and the EDL which ended with a C18 member being battered with a fire extinguisher. Others have put this down to inter-firm rivalries. Regardless, what the leadership say on their websites and what happens on the streets are usually completely different things. On the website they claim that they will stop the Sieg-Heiling. They have not.
The EDL claim that the images are biased and they are really holding their arms aloft in traditional football style. The evidence does not support this. They claim that they do not want Nazis on their demonstrations but then the likes of Michael Heaton, associated with the Aryan Strike Force, the tiny BFF and the NF is photographed in attendance. Heaton has undeniable Nazi links and has also just been arrested for soliciting murder. The EDL leaders are keen to publicly discourage any anti-social behaviour but perhaps not meeting in the pub might help with this. On the EDL’s sister website, Casuals United they appeal for calm:
“things like charging at police and singing "Harry Roberts" songs aren't gonna get Joe public to join demos … I know a lot of you are ex-lads, but this ain't a football match, its a serious protest group.”
These appeals seem to fall on the waxen ears of protestors.
The Nazis & EDL
On Northwest Nationalists, the far right anti-Griffinite site, there is a difference of opinion over the outcomes of Stoke with one poster having seen “this one half caste guy about 45 with the stoke mob with a 70s style afro who was stood on a table taunting the old bill shouting B,B,BNP.” To their general amusement. Others are not impressed and between the UAF and the Zionist stooges” they “couldn't care less which of these gangs ends up with more casualties.” This accusation of being covertly run by an ‘evil Jewish cabal’ is a common worry on these websites: “there is clearly a Zionist influence behind the scenes of the EDL.” The BFF website also agrees: “because there [sic] are part of ZOGs footsoliders [sic].” However, illiteracy apart, for some at NWN, “at least the edl get of [sic] there arses and get out on the street.” The determinedly non-Nazi, non-racist, EDL responded to comments by inviting the NWNers to the demo:
“maybe tag along to one theres two in the midlands stoke and dudley in new year. you colud [sic] then find out for yourself what there all about.”
Inviting known Nazis to your demo is probably not the best way to ‘stamp out’ the Sieg-Heiling.
That the situation in Stoke is potentially volatile is beyond doubt: the EDL will hope to pull numbers, local BNP supporters (not necessarily members) will no doubt get involved and the Naughty 40 and other firms may drop by with tea and cakes. There will be a large anti-fascist counter demonstration and a massive police presence. When all the smoke clears, as with Nottingham, it will be the good people of Stoke who end up paying for it all. The only way to avoid this, the inevitable violence and arrests, the general disruption to the city is to ban it.
We're all agreed that the EDL
We're all agreed that the EDL are a violent fascist organisation, but I wouldn't get into the habit of quoting the police as a 'reliable source'. I was arrested demonstrating against the EDL in Manchester for the Public Order Offence of leading a chant of "pigs & fascists share a flag - we march under none", which the pigs in question arbitrarily decided was "disorderly in a way likely to cause fear or distress to members of the public" (you can read about it on my blog if you're interested in knowing the details btw - http://kazenokae.blogspot.com/2009/10/pigs-and-fascists-share-flag.html)