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article imageOp-Ed: Who are the English Defence League?

By Stephen Morgan     May 29, 2013 in World
The English Defence League has been receiving quite some attention from the press recently. In particular, they have had some very favorable publicity in Digital Journal. However, readers may be surprised to know who they really are.
Following yesterday's article by Richard Milnes in Digital Journal, some people might be imagining that the EDL is some sort of popular group of concerned citizens, which has recently sprung up to defend people and express legitimate anger at the horrendous murder of a young British soldier by Muslim extremists. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The EDL is neither a new group nor a popular one and it certainly isn't defending British people. In truth it is a pariah organization, which few people will have anything to do with. Indeed, yesterday, the founder of Help for Heroes, whose T-shirt the murdered soldier was wearing, immediately refused any financial donations from this group, because it is well-know in Britain as a far-right extremist organization.
When finding out about its financial appeal, Bryn Parry, the founder of Help for Heroes took measures to get their appeal shut down and taken of their web site. Sky News reported that he made his position quite clear, “we do not knowingly accept any money from any organisation that could be considered extreme.”
Well, if Mr Parry, (who one could hardly imagine is some far-left activist) calls the EDL “extreme,” then presumably there's some truth in it. His actions obviously reflect the fact that their far-right views are notorious in the UK and that the majority of the British people will have nothing to do with them. The fact that they could only get some 1,000 people on their national rally over the issue of the killing speaks for itself. Their offer of financial help was obviously a great embarrassment to Help for Heroes, who knew their cause would be irrevocably stained by any relations with them.
So who are they? Firstly, they are a small, but a very high-profile and violent fringe group mostly made up of football hooligans, skinheads and members of other far-right organizations, such as the neo-nazi, paramilitary organization, Combat 18.
As part of an investigative piece, Billy Briggs, a reporter for the British Daily Mail, (a conservative right of center paper) joined EDL supporters going to Manchester for a rally. On the train, he characterized the EDL supporters as being overwhelmingly made up of organized football hooligans from around the UK. “Standing shoulder to shoulder,” he reports “are notorious gangs - or 'firms' as they are known - such as Cardiff City's Soul Crew, Bolton Wanderers' Cuckoo Boys and Luton Town's Men In Gear.”
Describing what he was likely to see when he arrived with them at their rally, he said “Violence has erupted at most of the EDL's demonstrations. In total, nearly 200 people have been arrested and an array of weapons has been seized, including knuckledusters, a hammer, a chisel and a bottle of bleach.”
Such disturbing stories can be found in almost all British papers. The Guardian newspaper, in particular, has carried out investigations exposing them as a violent far-right organization, which works with other neo-Nazi groups. The fact is certainly not appreciated by the EDL, who are no friends of free speech and freedom of the press. As a result of his stories about them, Guardian journalist, Jason N. Parkinson received death threats from one of their leading members. Jason exposed who it was with a link to his blog, which was quickly taken down.
But Jason Parkinson isn't the only one. The EDL has a history of attacking the press. Marc Vallée, a photographer and investigative journalist also received an email containing a death threat only days after being pictured and named by the extreme-right website Redwatch, which has links to Combat 18, a group suspected in numerous deaths of immigrants, Muslims and non-whites, whose members are banned from becoming prison officers or joining the police.
In another incident, EDL members spotted four Sky News reporters covering one of their rallies in Leicester. The Sky News team were set upon by the mob and had to run to their satellite truck for protection. The EDL thugs then began attacking the windscreen. "It was very, very frightening," said reporter Robin Powell, who was in the truck.
The situation has got so bad for the UK press that the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) has published a public statement on its website saying that “tough and urgent action is needed in response to violence, intimidation and death threats” made against journalists and photographers covering EDL events.
The English Defence League march in London.
The English Defence League march in London.
The EDL, of course, says it is non-violent. They are hardly going to say “we are a violent organization” and they attempt to cloak themselves as patriotic and non-racist, when, in fact, they are really bigoted, right-wing extremists and Islamophobics trying to cynically manipulate the recent tragedy for their own political gains.
Indeed, there is a very dark side to this group.
The Daily Telegraph, also a right of center, conservative paper, reported that Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed over 70 teenagers at a summer camp in Oslo in 2011, stated that he had strong links with the EDL, had met the leadership and attended their rallies. Breivik boasted that he had 600 EDL members as Facebook friends. In 2009, Breivik made an online call for the establishment of a Norwegian Defence League to join the EDL's crusade against Islam.
The paper reports that “Breivik compiled a 1,518-page manifesto... in which he made repeated references to his British links and in particular his links to the EDL. “I used to have more than 600 EDL members as Facebook friends and have spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders,” he wrote. “In fact, I was one of the individuals who supplied them with processed ideological material (including rhetorical strategies) in the very beginning.”
After the murders, Interpol sent Special Services to help Maltese police investigate a man called Paul Ray because of his links to Breivik. Ray fled Britain to avoid arrest for racist activities. According to the Malta Independent, a number of online videos showed Paul Ray in Malta “with two of Europe’s most dangerous neo-Nazis − Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair (who was allegedly behind a dozen killings in Northern Ireland as head of the Ulster Defence Association) and Nick Greger” or “Nick ‘The Nazi’ Greger, a German-British neo-Nazi.” After questioning, Paul Ray admitted that he had been in direct online contact with Breivik, who also described Paul Ray as his mentor in his manifesto. Ray admitted that he had probably influenced Breivik.
Paul Ray was a founding member and co-leader of the English Defence League.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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