Around 70 counter-protestors gathered in Nottingham’s Market Square on Saturday, after rumours that members of the English Defence League (EDL) were planning a demonstration spread on Facebook. Amid the large crowd of anti-EDL protestors, no EDL demonstrations were seen.
Julie Webster, secretary for Nottingham’s Unite Against Facism (UAF) branch, thanked the crowd for the strong turnout: “The EDL haven’t even turned up. We’re sending a clear message to these Nazis that they can’t use events like Woolwich to spread racist messages.”
Since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on Wednesday, the helpline Faith Matters has reported a six fold increase in anti-Muslim attacks, whilst several arrests have been made across the country for comments made on social media.
On Thursday, EDL member Steve Ryan planned an unofficial protest in Market Square for 1pm, but the Nottingham EDL division spent the day at an official march in Newcastle instead, which was attended by around 1500 protestors.
There was a rumour about a protest so we had to take it seriously
Speaking earlier this morning, police officers in Market Square told Impact that they were not expecting any EDL protestors in Nottingham and that no extra officers were being called to the area.
However, anti-EDL protestors in Market Square said that it was important that they were there simply to show their opposition.
Mary Hope, from the PCS union, commented: “There was a rumour about a protest so we had to take it seriously.” She added: “I’ve been to a number of protests and the EDL are invariably outnumbered. There are big numbers here, especially considering we only heard about this yesterday.”
The 70-strong crowd, including members of the UAF, Socialist Workers Party and Love Music Hate Racism, handed out leaflets and carried banners.
Local resident Rosie Lee, who brought a banner of the word ‘Equality’, commented: “If the EDL do show up, our response will depend on theirs. But there’s not been anyone so far and if they don’t turn up at all that’s great. We don’t want them here.”
Amongst the crowd were University of Nottingham Politics students Joe Todd, Seb Bench and Luke Dixon, and Chemical Engineering student Henry Kemp.
Todd had posted a message on the Heard in Hallward Facebook group, rallying students to join the UAF’s counter protest. He told Impact: “I’m not a huge protestor but the EDL are disgusting. When I heard rumours about a protest I felt morally obliged to come and oppose them.”
He noted that the EDL has quite a lot of support in Nottingham, and added: “We’ve got to be careful; we can’t slide too far to the right. UKIP are bad enough.”
Kemp added: “I think the EDL are a minority but the danger is that at the moment they’re making groups like the BNP look less extreme in comparison.”
Images by Fiona Crosby and Ben James