After the brutal and barbaric murder of an off-duty soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday, Britons took to the street to protest in a massive rally led by the controversial English Defence League. EDL leader Tommy Robinson told the rally in Newcastle, “We cannot allow this soldier’s death to be in vain. We are the only ones who dare say it. When did the truth become hate speech?” Nearly 2,000 people showed up to the rally.
Violence nearly broke out when 350 to 400 counterprotesters showed up, and glass bottles were thrown; counterprotesters shouted “Nazi scum, off our streets.” Dipu Ahad, a Labor councilor, said that EDL were acting as “opportunists.” A handful of would-be protesters were arrested before the rally for posting racist messages on Twitter, according to CNN. EDL, however, encouraged its ralliers to act with care, posting a message online: “NO swearing, NO incitement to violence, No racist remarks, No threats. Please be very aware that the authorities can, do & will monitor these pages & it seems from information we are getting are visiting and arresting people. Keep it safe please.”
The EDL describes itself as “an inclusive movement dedicated to peacefully protesting against Islamic extremism.” Others describe the movement as xenophobic. British Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2010, “The EDL are terrible people, we would always keep these groups under review and if we needed to ban them, we would ban them or any groups which incite hatred.” The British press regularly describes the group as “far-right.” The EDL is pro-Israel and pro-Western in orientation.