EDL/UAF MARCHES: Taunts,
snarls, slogans then it’s back on the
In October 2010 the EDL could only hold a static protest. This year it was given permission to march. Repoter Peter Warzynski witnessed the procession through Leicester
As businesses hoisted their shutters and early bird shoppers stepped off buses, Leicester seemed to be waking up as usual.
There was nothing to distinguish this from any other Saturday morning.
The only difference was the growing number of police, who were arriving on foot, in vans and on horseback.
As they reached their designated posts and their presence became ever more conspicuous the mood changed and, by 11am, a subdued buzz surrounded the Clock Tower.
Journalists, photographers and curious members of the public gathered and spoke in hushed tones about what the day would bring.
At the same time, coach-loads of English Defence League supporters began to arrive at St Margaret’s Pastures, their designated meeting point.
Members from London, East Anglia, Peterborough and Leeds proudly sported their “divisions” on their sweatshirts – along with the phrase “No Surrender”.
They excitedly relayed their hopes for a clash with their biggest adversaries, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), who were beginning to rally the other side of the city centre, near Welford Road.
“I’m going to kick off at the Clock Tower even if no one else does,” boasted one hooded local as he drew on his cigarette.
A burger van served the masses as music boomed from giant speakers.
Every now and then a chorus of “E, E, EDL” would break out and then quickly die away.
Just after noon, the police indicated it was time to begin the march and ushered the 700-strong crowd out of the car park and on to St Margaret’s Way.
The procession was flanked by scores of police, who kept the men, women and children of the EDL from splitting off from the pack.
Horses led the group from the rally point and parents slowly shepherded their children.
Youngsters delighted their mums and dads with anti-Islam chants.
Those views continued throughout their stomp around the city centre.
One boy, of primary school age, was shouting himself hoarse as his mother made anti-Islamic comments.
The floor was covered in spit and mounds of droppings from the lead horses. The masses trudged through both.
Some had bought fishing poles to hoist their flags.
The largest belonged to the smallest man on the march, who could not have stood taller than 4ft 9in.
As the mob moved past the Sky Plaza hotel, in Abbey Street, two loud booms echoed around the street.
Panic spread through the crowd, who thought they were being attacked, only to find it was one their own who had let off firecrackers in the middle of the procession.
As the horde reached the Clock Tower there was a surge forward.
But the front few EDL supporters were met with a wall of stone-faced police.
The snarling taunts and shouts of the hooded and masked men had been sparked by the appearance of the mob’s greatest critics, the UAF.
The crowd was condensed into a swaying sea of bodies, all trying to get closer to the action.
But, sensing defeat, the 12 or so EDL protagonists retreated, no doubt re-thinking their actions after some well placed police baton blows.
When there was a lack of UAF, the hostility turn towards the groups of journalists and photographers who followed the parade from start to finish.
When the pack finally came full circle and returned to St Margaret’s Pastures they listened to the rhetoric of EDL leader Tommy Robinson and local representatives.
The crowd – what was left of them – lapped it up.
But after a while, the snow and speeches got too much for the 700 men, women and children and they skulked back to the 13 waiting coaches.