They say history has a way of repeating itself, the 1930s saw the rise of fascism in Europe thanks to the economic troubles brought on by the Great Depression. In harsh economic times it becomes easier, for anyone that way inclined, to encourage and exploit a sense of disillusionment with authority and to scapegoat certain groups in the endless hunt for someone to blame for the problems that really belong to the whole of society.
It is not surprising then that since the start of the financial crisis in 2008 political groups that promote fascist attitudes or have them as their core have seen an increase in popularity. One such group is the English Defence League, a violent islamophobic, anti-immigrant group who are rallied under the false banner of patriotism. The members of the EDL mistakenly march against the fact that modern British society is made up of many different racial groups. They spread their lies and their hate and, unfortunately, people are willing to listen as long as someone else is being blamed for their country’s problems other than themselves, and the group’s popularity has grown in recent years. It is predicted that in the 2014 elections, fascist political parties such as UKIP and the BNP will use issues of race as a divisive theme.
But, as ever, there is hope. It comes in the form of the E.D.L., or better said, the Real E.D.L.: the English Disco Lovers. This group is made up of those who are opposed to everything that the English Defence League represents. They are a pacifist group who promote their message of equality, integration and racial harmony in British society through the uniting power of disco. Their website (www.edl.me) sets out their goals clearly: to reach such notoriety that upon searching the term “EDL” in Google, they appear before the English Defence League. As well as this, they aim to have more likes on facebook and more followers on twitter than the hate group (the second of these three objectives has already been completed, so any twitter users should follow the English Disco Lovers at @EngDiscoLovers and, of course, anybody reading who doesn’t already like the English Disco Lovers on facebook should follow this link (https://www.facebook.com/englishdiscolovers) and make a stand against hate in modern Britain.
On May 4th the English Defence League came to Leeds to protest against the opening of a new Islamic Community Centre in an abandoned pub on the Lingfield Estate in Moortown. The English Disco Lovers joined other anti-fascist groups in a counter protest. People from all walks of life attended the protest: students, professionals, Muslims, Christians and everything in between, all were united by a common cause: show the English Defence League that their message of racism and hate is not welcome in the city of Leeds. It was inspiring to see so many people coming together against fascism, there were many impassioned speeches made, the most powerful of which was by a student from a secondary school on the estate, despite students having been told to stay away from the protest for fear of violence breaking out.
Thankfully, and in accordance with the English Disco Lovers’ values, the protest remained peaceful. Unfortunately, as much cannot be said for the members of the English Defence League, who saw four of their number arrested for being drunk and disorderly amongst other public offenses. A police officer posted outside the site of the future community centre confirmed that members of the League had managed to smuggle the severed head of a pig onto the march, which they threw at the building to make an anti-Islamic statement.
After the members of the English Defence League had marched back to their base, the representatives from all the anti-fascist groups that were present marched united to the site of the future community centre to show to the residents of the estate that fascist groups like the E.D.L. and the values that they represent are not welcome in the area. In fact, members of the English Defence League are the minority and shouldn’t be allowed to influence the community for the worse.
They say history repeats itself, and this appears to be true as far as how fascism takes hold within a society. But we also have endeavoured to learn from the past, the telltale signs of growing fascist sentiment are all too clear. So, it is vital that we, the majority, show intolerant groups like the English Defence League that, in accordance with the real E.D.L.’s slogan “Unas mundas, unus gens, unas disco.” (One World, One Race, One Disco), they are not welcome in Leeds, not welcome in Great Britain and certainly not welcome in our discos. It is important to remember in the future that, should someone say to you they’re part of the Real E.D.L., don’t panic, because they probably just want to dance.
For more photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhickling/sets/72157633509579485/
And a little video to capture the essence of the protest: