Although the Football Lads’ Alliance has already split into two distinct factions, the FLA and the “Democratic FLA”, both agreed to hold a protest march yesterday in Birmingham. This, sadly, was a campaign which turned out not necessarily to their advantage, and at most the gathering mustered around 4,000 individuals. And worse for both of them was the realisation, even among their own supporters, of where they are heading.
The participants were addressed variously by Anne Marie Waters, desperately trying to drum up support for her next-to-irrelevant For Britain party, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, perhaps looking to tap into the movement and thereby promote his new and independent website, and the interim leadership of UKIP, now reduced to begging for money in order to stave off impending bankruptcy.
But, although the likes of Lennon claim no longer to be where they were at the time they were involved in the English Defence League, that appears to be where the FLA (and DFLA) are heading. One poster to the DFLA Facebook page spoke to someone who had been to the rally “and his words to me, with all the chants and songs … it was like the re-birth [of] the EDL … I may be getting old, but to be singing No Surrender and Keep St George In My Heart … while walking through a city full of people doing a weekly shop is cringeworthy”. He was not the only one mentioning the EDL.
Another attendee told “I left the FLA march after the second rendition of ‘Allah Was A Paedo’. How are we going to get the backing and support of people we need when we are acting like the EDL”. A third mused “thought we [were] growing, on the up, great things happening [but] all I [saw was] young lads smashing glasses [and] bottles outside a pub - not for me”. Smashing glasses and bottles was only the half of it.
The people at Far Right Watch turned up evidence of serious thuggery. “#Birmingham - In a minor scuffle, took this off a @TrueFla / @lads_alliance thug yesterday … Yes, it is what it looks like - a home made tazer, from a vape liquid packing tube. Our electronic geek checked it in a cafe round the corner - it puts out 1m volts at current between 500mA and 1000A … We ripped the switch off and for safety popped two bulldogs on it to test. And here's it working”. Nasty. Home made weapons, too.
That isn’t “protesting against extremism”. It’s going tooled up for some serious hooliganism. That, along with smashing bottles and glasses, the singing and chanting, and deliberate abuse hurled at followers of The Prophet.
And it comes only days after the Observer discovered that the FLA’s Facebook page “includes posts by members calling for [Sadiq] Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, to be ‘hanged’ and for [Diane] Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, to be ‘run over’. There are also posts claiming mosque attacker [Darren] Osborne is a ‘scapegoat’ and suggesting he was right to plot to kill Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn”.
But they’re just opposed to all kinds of extremism and aren’t at all racist. But they seem to let in rather a lot of people who give that impression. And the difference between what the FLA seems to be morphing into, and the EDL, does not appear all that great.
The Football Lads’ Alliance may not be the EDL. But you can see it from there.