The West Midlands Police win the award for crass, unprovoked, heavy-handed, disrespect and especially violent actions against the English Defence League during our demonstration in Coventry on 21 May 2016.
The lead-up to the WMP baton wielding after our demonstration
All seemed to go well until it was time to leave the area of our demonstration. Then, as if being directed from on high, we were marched around town and down through subways in a meandering route that even had locals confused. Our numbers included many women (as usual), but also boys and girls.
It was astonishing to all that the WMP could not organise the return to our coaches and train station without the fuss and violence. Had they totally omitted to plan for protection after our speeches? Were the officers on the ground left to make it up as they went along? If the police had good reason to change our route, surely they would have informed our stewards. At several points on the return journey in the subways we were squeezed together and then were stopped inside the tunnel by the police. But a crowd in the back cannot easily be stopped just because the few in the front are stopped. In one tunnel the line of police blocked our way, raising their batons ready to strike. The image from the back of the moving queue in a dark tunnel, of the silhouette of police officers against the sunshine at the opposite end of the tunnel with batons raised, was frightening. One of our members, a woman, was hit on the head and concussed. As pictures show, several more of our members were hit.
The EDL did nothing to provoke such reaction/action by the police. The police were ready for violence and engineered a reaction from us to justify their own use of violence. They had riot helmets and batons hanging from their belts.
After the police batons
At one point approaching the railway station German shepherd dogs, barking angrily, were held back by police. Just outside the station the police held us back because, we were told, Lefties were inside waiting for us. So the police can control hundreds of non-violent and cooperative patriots but not clear the station of a few Lefties? It was the police’s choice to ignore and not disperse the Lefties who, presumably, the police feared were poised to, literally, “Smash the EDL”.
This sort of bullying provocation by the WMP is not new to our experience of demonstrations. Many police forces of course have worked well with us and provided a sensible, cooperative and respectful working relationship which we always try to foster. In fact, an excellent example of professional cooperation that enabled us to demonstrate in our own way was in Walsall last year. And that was WMP! What happened? Don’t they talk to each other?
The job of the police is to protect the right and passage of peaceful, lawful protests. Threatening protesters with raised batons as they were emerging un-threateningly from the crush of a confined tunnel is not the way to go about it.
We demand an explanation and an apology
How did this happen? As law abiding citizens we demand an explanation for this chaos and intimidation directed toward peaceful protestors. An explanation and – if justified – an apology. But we know that we will not be heard – not without other voices speaking up as well. Therefore, we call on the Coventry media, who have covered this event extensively, to ask relevant questions of their local constabulary and demand answers.
The evasiveness of the Coventry 91
In the Coventry media before our 21 May demonstration a letter was published with 91 signatories declaring that our protest against the Islamification of British society, Muslim grooming/child abuse gangs, local radicalisation for Islamic terrorism, misogynistic sharia law and other evils was not in their name.
The English Defence League is a living beacon of plain speaking about these almost unspeakable topics. It is not an easy role. Fortunately we can depend on the freedoms for peaceful protest that are among the bedrock of British values.
In our exercise of these freedoms we cooperate with the police to arrange our protests to avoid violence, cause minimal disruption, and respect for the law. But in Coventry that understanding was broken by police violence.
Will the Coventry 91 speak up now about the rights of EDL and others to protest peacefully?
If the people of Coventry do not speak up for the right of peaceful protest, who will the WMP target next for intimidation and harassment?
WMP’s baton assault in Coventry will not deter us
In this instance it was only the discipline of the EDL, not the police, which prevented an escalation of violence. Our efforts to convey our message about the threats from Islamification to the wider public will not be deterred by state-sanctioned violence and provocation; nor by weaselly threats from the likes of the UAF; nor by so-called leaders who are wilfully blind to the threat of Islam and refuse to support democratic processes.
Our willingness to organise demonstrations in cooperation and discussion with the police forces throughout the country is dependent on good faith being shown on both sides. We have always done our part. But if this cooperation and discussion is to be followed by unprovoked and surprise baton wielding, it is no more than a charade. Why should we bother with it? If the police and local leaders abdicate their role as guardians of civil and political rights we will rely on ourselves alone in order to protect our families, communities and this great nation.
English Defence League Committee
31 May 2016