What Country Are the English Defence League Trying to Save?

The marchers had dressed their cause with placards warning of "creeping Islamazation" and the "threat of Sharia", their chants hitting the more base notes of the late Oriana Fallaci, interspersed with modified songs from terraces: "We're the famous EDL".

"This is my fucking country. This is my fucking country."

Pinned up against a wall, both arms wrenched behind his back, the man in the football shirt would not be silenced. "This is my fucking country."

I move closer to get a better view. He sees me: "Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off..." Two policemen try to squeeze him further into the wall, subduing him against the bricks. It doesn't work.

His face now entirely sculpted by anger, the detainee continues his child-like resistance: "Fuck off, this is my fucking country. It's my country."

As he is led to the police van, little visible about the man remains human. His mouth twisted and locked with fury - even his body, contorted out of shape by restraint and rage, seems to betray his animal origins.

His face lit red by sunburn, his clothes dirtied and frayed from the scuffle with the police... one last time before the door is closed: "This is my fucking country."

Around 200 members of the English Defence League (EDL) journeyed to Walthamstow on Saturday to protest against the town's Muslim community.

The marchers had dressed their protest with placards warning of "creeping Islamazation" and the "threat of Sharia", their chants hitting the more base notes of the late Oriana Fallaci, interspersed with modified songs from terraces: "We're the famous EDL".

There were no Nazi salutes; there were no visible beer cans. As the group formed outside the station, the pack became recognisable as a football crowd - men travelling on a train to an "away-day" fixture, boozing on the journey, seeing old friends, before meeting the enemy on their own turf.

Once on the march and confronted by a rival protest organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and local residents, some EDL members offered less politicised viewpoints.

"Go and rape your fucking sister," one man barked to an Asian protester stood on the other side of the police line.

"Shave your beard you dirty fucking cunt," shouted another.

Non-Muslims - white and black - that showed any form of disapproval were met with chants of "you're not English anymore".

Violence erupted on the Forest Road, started by UAF demonstrators, who threw glass bottles into the crowd. One man started throwing flowerpots. The EDL pushed at the police line, but nothing was thrown back.

By the time the marchers finally reached their protest point, the UAF had gathered enough numbers to force the police to call off the event. Bottles hit a van draped in the English flag. UAF protesters shouted: "Without the police you'd be fucking dead."

More missiles were thrown, now at the EDL leadership who were stood outside Walthamstow Magistrates' Court, cut off from the main pack.

The man in the football shirt was detained. "It's my fucking country"

...Except it isn't his country.

His colour, his culture, his race may put him in the majority, but his views place him firmly in a minority - a minority even smaller than the three million Muslims in the UK that apparently pose such a direct threat to his "British way of life".

There is a genuine debate to be had over multiculturalism, particularly in regards to Britain's Islamic community and how to encourage integration without cultural dilution.

There is also a debate about freedom of speech and the right to political protest - a right the EDL was seemingly denied.

More grand still is the question of all religion and whether society can truly progress if shackled with bronze-age beliefs and superstitions.

However, marching 200 angry men up a High Street in one of London's most ethnically diverse suburbs, while shouting, "fuck off Islam" and "who the fuck is Allah?" does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of political protest, or the points of multiculturalism in the UK or religion in the modern world.

Whatever country the EDL are trying to salvage, it isn't one worth saving.


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