Having nothing better to do with my life on a sunny Saturday morning, I attended an English Defence League (EDL) rally and counter-demo in central London with my cameras.
Actually, it was organized by Football Lads Alliance formed after the terrorist attacks in London Bridge and partly inspired by the Millwall fan who fought off some of the attackers.
Counter demonstrators organized by United Against Fascism were working themselves up in a right old state just off Trafalgar Square. Some had their faces covered by bandanas because “fascist photographers” posted pictures online so they could be traced and attacked.
From what I saw, I very much doubt their adversaries were capable of such a feat after a morning of drinking in Wetherspoons on Whitehall. An appropriately cheap, brexity pub.
They looked like elements of the England travelling support who chant about German bombers and had come from places like Chester, Sheffield, Boston and Skegness. Many sported Cross of St George tattoos, most had acute dental hygiene issues.
They were amiable and happy to pose for photos.
The black doorman at the pub laughed when I suggested this must be one of his more bizarre jobs.
Some of them were having great difficulty walking in a straight line as they were escorted to their little rally by the Thames.
They shouted “God save the Queen” and various football terrace-like chants about the “famous EDL comin’ down the road.”
Some of the football hooligan elements were obviously spoiling for a fight, but the police did a competent job of keeping both sides apart.
One of the anti-fascists fell over at one point, which excited the photographers.
A student journalist in a hijab interviewed one of them, who suggested she should be on their side as they were demonstrating against sex assault, FGM and child brides, which I thought was a fair point. She said “What? You’re insulting my religion!” And as one of the EDL was wearing a pig’s head mask, and another had a “Fuck Islam” t-shirt, I thought this was also a fair point.
“Do you think it’s going to kick off?” asked one photographer around lunchtime. Looking at the huge contingent of riot police separating about 50 or so of the EDL/FLA marchers from the anti-fascists, I shook my head.
And then one of the cops cordoning off the rally asked me if I was “with that lot”. I could see why, given I am a fairly unhealthy looking middle-aged white bloke and was wearing scruffy black motorcycle trousers and boots, but it was another blow to my self-esteem and I left to file my more dramatic images to a press picture agency.