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England ‘till I die’

Ed Thompson

Published on 10/02/14

© Ed Thompson

In 2009, Stephen Len­non A.K.A Tommy Robin­son estab­lished the Eng­lish Defense League (E.D.L). Its aim is to stop rad­ical Islam’s influ­ence in the UK. This includes oppos­ing Sharia Law Courts, Halal slaughter, the build­ing of Mosques and the wear­ing of the burka.
Fas­cin­ated by the groups adop­tion of the ver­nacu­lar of foot­ball firm hoo­ligan­ism, pho­to­grapher Ed Thompson has been fol­low­ing the E.D.L since 2010. The E.D.L organ­izes street based marches in order to make their point and these have con­sid­er­ably increased in fre­quency over the years. Dur­ing one of their largest protests in Luton in 2011 around 3.000 sup­port­ers par­ti­cip­ated. The day before the E.D.L’s protest in Luton on Feb­ru­ary 5, U.K Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron spoke in Munich and declared that mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism had failed in the U.K.
Unlike the Brit­ish National Party (B.N.P), the pre­dom­in­ant right wing polit­ical party in the U.K, the E.D.L is not involved in polit­ics and instead they see them­selves as a human rights organ­isa­tion. And also unlike the B.N.P they will let any­one be involved, whereas up until 2010 the B.N.P would only take indi­gen­ous Brit­ish people. This has even led to the E.D.L form­ing a Jew­ish Divi­sion and a Gay & Les­bian Divi­sion.
On June 30, 2012, the E.D.L were tar­geted by six Brit­ish jihadists who planned to unleash an arsenal of shot­guns, knives, samurai swords, pipe bombs and nail bombs on the group while they pro­tested in Dews­bury. But they arrived two hours late and missed the protest and were ran­domly picked up by the police as they drove home on the M1 dur­ing a police spot check. The E.D.L later sur­roun­ded the Old Bailey Court in Lon­don while the jihadists were sen­tenced, Tommy Robin­son was in the pub­lic gal­lery as they were sen­tenced to 18 years in prison and shouted ‘God Save the Queen’ whilst oth­ers shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’.
On May 22, 2013 two Eng­lish Muslims of Nigerian des­cent beheaded Lee Rigby, an Eng­lish sol­dier, on a Lon­don street in broad day­light. In the fol­low­ing weeks the E.D.L held a num­ber of walks over the U.K where they laid flowers for Lee Rigby at vari­ous war memori­als, dur­ing this the E.D.L went from 25,000 sup­port­ers on Face­book to 156,000. This high pro­file murder has given the E.D.L val­id­a­tion within the U.K press — Tommy Robin­son has fea­tured on some of the U.K’s most prom­in­ent polit­ical tele­vi­sion shows includ­ing BBC’s News­night.
In 2013 Tommy Robin­son announced his depar­ture from the E.D.L to join Quil­liam. The future of the E.D.L seems uncer­tain, Robin­son cited the E.D.L’s co-opting by an even more right wing ele­ment and the man with the tat­too of an explod­ing Mosque as some of his reas­ons for leav­ing.
This work was com­pleted with the sup­port of Foto­dok as part of The Rise of Pop­u­lism pro­ject. First pub­lished by CNN and Huff­ing­ton Post in 2013. The work was well received crit­ic­ally although aroused anger from both Pro-EDL and Anti-EDL groups at the same time.

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