It was supposed to be a “peaceful” protest by a group opposed to Islamic law and what it perceives as radical Islam. Or at least that is how the right-wing English Defence League (EDL) would have liked Saturday’s demonstration to be received.
But many had their doubts. Chief among them, the West Midlands Police, which spent the previous fortnight meeting Muslim community leaders to ensure that they told their followers to stay away. Less than a month earlier, a visit by EDL supporters to the city ended in a feud between them and counter-demonstrators, mainly of Asian backgrounds, and 35 people were arrested.
About 100 EDL supporters descended on Birmingham on Saturday morning, some carrying signs reading “Islamic Extremists Out” and “Make Britain Safe”. Others screamed insults against Allah and Islam as they made their way to a nearby pub.