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Lee Rigby attack

Soldier's killing revives far-right group's anti-Islam campaign

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 6:23am

For a movement that was on the verge of implosion less than a month ago, the English Defence League (EDL) has staged a major show of force in central London, signalling that the death of Drummer Lee Rigby has breathed new life into the far-right protest group.

More than 500 supporters - including football hooligans, veteran fascists and others - assembled under tight police security at the entrance to Downing Street, where they listened to their leaders blame Islam for the killing in Woolwich last week.

A counter-demonstration of several hundred people, organised by anti-fascist groups, was kept apart from the EDL protest, which chanted "scum, scum, scum" as their leader, Tommy Robinson, railed against the left and Muslims.

I am here to show that we stand together against the killers of Lee Rigby. It seems that there is one law today for Muslims and one for everyone else

Among those at the EDL gathering was Ben Roberts, a former soldier waving a flag of St George and wearing service medals from Iraq and Afghanistan. "I am here to show that we stand together against the killers of Lee Rigby. It seems that there is one law today for Muslims and one for everyone else," he said, adding that other ex-service personnel were also present.

While many protesters were young men with close-cropped hair wearing casual sports gear or England shirts, there were a small number of women and children and a handful of Sikhs.

Varinder Singh, who has set up a group called "Sikhs against the EDL" and was present at the demonstration against the EDL, said: "They have tried to recruit Sikhs to their cause, but only a handful have been with them at any one time."

On Sunday, Home minister Theresa May outlined a battery of measures to prevent radicalisation of British Muslims. They included tougher pre-emptive censorship of internet sites, a lower threshold for banning extremist groups and renewed pressure on universities and mosques to reject so-called hate preachers.