A day trip to Rotherham for the EDL

I’m not usually the most sociable person in a morning and I usually need a carefully calibrated breakfast of four pints of builders tea and six roll-ups just to function. If you add into the mix a journey to Rotherham by public transport including a tram to Meadowhall – on a Saturday morning you have a potentially dangerous mixture.

As it was it all went surprisingly smoothly. I met up with my mate at Meadowhall interchange, the train to Rotherham turned up on time and we got to Rotherham for about 10.30.
The EDL were meeting up at The County pub which is about 100 yards from the train station and this was the situation as we walked past in the search for tea.

The County at 10.30

There were a few EDL in the pub beer garden singing their usual dirges, a few police stationed around and we went for a walk around the city centre looking for the demo site.

The demo site was the New Town Hall about 300 yards straight up the road from The County.

This was the view at about 10.45

The entire town centre was well segregated as the counter demo wasn’t that far from The County. A few shops were shut and a few of the shop owners I talked to were apprehensive about the EDL being in town and the financial damage that this demo was doing.

On the way back down the hill to the county we saw this painted on the window of a community centre.

Back at The County a few more EDL had turned up including Daz Lumb and the Bradford EDL contingent as well as more police. The situation was still quiet apart from the bloody singing. We hung about for a while mingling with the bystanders and generally chatting to people.

The County

More EDL and more Police

Bradford EDL make an appearance

After chatting to a local copper about the best place close by to get a cuppa (did I mention I function on tea) he pointed us in the direction of a great cafe called The Riverside Cafe a couple of minutes walk from The County.

Two cups of tea and a fag later we went back to see what was happening in the rest of the town centre. The counter demo was going well with a couple of hundred people there but the rest of the centre was pretty quiet.

Back at The County it was obvious that the EDL numbers had increased but it still didn’t feel like that many and in response the police numbers had increased. It was difficult to judge number as The County is a big pub and the EDL were also in a pub called The Angel a few yards up the road. Adding to the confusion were the amount of bystanders stood looking on.

By midday the police cordon had increased significantly and continued to increase over the next 15 minutes as they poured more resources into containing the EDL.

At about 12.20ish the police started to assemble the cordon for the march.

It took a few minutes to get the march organised and then they were off after a couple of false starts.

To many in the EDL these pics look like a magnificent sight but there were only about 300 there. To put that number into some sort of context there are 100,000 football fans within an hours drive or train journey of Rotherham. Many of the football clubs were not playing that day due to the England match on Friday, Rotherham United were playing at home and it was a bright and sunny day.

Anyway – on to the actual demo.

The EDL finally walk or stagger up the hill to the New Town Hall and go into their pen. Their pen is now ringed with a circle of police in the inside of the fencing and then a ring of police vans on the outside.

The speeches started at about 12.50. Well I say speeches, more like incoherent rants through a crap PA system, more singing, another speech and by this point I had had enough. Due to the lack of a stage it was impossible to see who was speaking so we went back down the hill to the Riverside Cafe for a cuppa and to get in position for the EDL being escorted back down.

The EDL finished their various rants and the police escorted them straight to the Train Station and issued them with Section 27 notices. As usual the EDL tried to kick off but the police were having none of it. As we had return train tickets to Sheffield, we didn’t fancy being stuck on a train with them so got the bus back.

This is the first time that the EDL had done a proper demo in South Yorkshire. They did a small demo last February in Barnsley and a flash demo outside a KFC in Sheffield in 2010.

The demographics of Rotherham make it the perfect place for them and it just didn’t work. Rotherham is the only place in South Yorkshire to have elected any far-right councillors. It’s one of the few places left in the country where the BNP vote is still reasonably strong and where the party spent money at the last local elections. One candidate got just under 900 votes and the hideous Marlene Guest got over 700. I know the BNP and EDL are separate entities and their leaders are in a bitter dispute at the moment but you would expect some crossover at a local level and that just wasn’t apparent on Saturday.

The EDL are a toxic brand and any hopes of any political success are doomed to failure before they start. It’s the first time I’ve seen the EDL up close and they are utterly vile.