Operation Wheeler

It has been a bit scary in Brighton today. The so-called March for England, took place this afternoon organized by the neo-Nazi English Defence League (no link to their website from me, you’ll observe). There was a massive police presence in town, at first concentrated on the seafront where the march was routed.

There were localized brawls between marchers and counter-demonstrators from the outset, and after the march ended various splinter groups from both dispersed around the city trying to cause disruption. The town has been at a standstill since about 2.30 as police sealed off isolated disturbances and protected bystanders. I was with a group of people near the Sea Life centre when half a dozen EDL thugs began hurling abuse and moving towards us in a very threatening way. The police intervened promptly and the agressors moved off. They may have subsequently joined a melee that then developed in the Old Steine and was attended by riot police but which did not last very long.

The number of marchers was about 150 (my estimate) with a similar number of counter-demonstrators; they were probably outnumbered by the Police, who had brought in reinforcements from elsewhere to assist with Operation Wheeler, their name for today’s huge activity. I saw vans from Hertfordshire, Norfolk and the City of London.

Anyway, with no serious injuries reported, I’d say Operation Wheeler was a success. I’ve heard that 13 arrests were made, for a variety of offences. I think the police did a very good job in extremely difficult circumstances.

Why have this march in Brighton? I don’t know, but judging by what I heard, the typical EDL marcher is not very fond of gay people and they probably came here because of Brighton’s large gay community and embrace of other forms of diversity. Racism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice seem often to be acquired as a package. To be honest, I think the EDL just came looking for trouble and didn’t really care that much where it was to be found.

Though the only violent acts I saw were carried out by EDL supporters there were extremists on the other side also spoiling for a fight. I think it would have been far more effective if the counter-protest had been totally peaceful. If thugs come looking for trouble, the worse thing to do is meet them at their level because that’s exactly what they want. The way to defeat people like the EDL is to behave better than they do which, based on today’s evidence, is by no means difficult..

The seafront remained closed for some time after the march had finished…

You can’t see very well in this image, but in the background a group of EDL supporters are being detained by the police.

These police horses are right next to “Legends”. There was a nice bit of banter going on between them and the largely gay clientele drinking out front.

Police standing by, just in case, as business returns to normal

Police vans from Norfolk and the City of London. I can’t be sure, but I think the seagull was local.

Old Steine, around 4pm. Ongoing disturbances in the background contained by police; nothing too serious by the look of it.

12 Responses to “Operation Wheeler”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    The EDL claim to be purely an anti-Sharia movement, and claim to have gay and coloured wings. (The gay community would have plenty to lose under Sharia and the Hindus have battled Islam in India for more than a millennium.) That said, I deeply distrust the EDL leadership and I have no personal experience of the ethos of an EDL march, nor intend to.

    • telescoper Says:

      Apparently this is march is the fifth EDL march to be held in Brighton; it has become an annual fixture, on or around St George’s Day. I suppose that means we have to put up with them next year too. Sigh. Shouldn”t they have to reimburse Brighton residents for the cost?

      I didn’t hear any slogans about Sharia Law being chanted, just racist and anti-gay abuse. The veneer is not very convincing when you see them close up.

    • Are there any organizations which are anti-Sharia but gay-friendly and anti-racist? My suspicion is that this would describe the majority of people in many countries, perhaps in the UK as well, but that many don’t openly state such convictions for fear of being lumped in with anti-Sharia organizations which are racist and anti-gay.

  2. […] Visit site: Operation Wheeler […]

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    This is not the first time that Peter has blogged about these intimidating marches by far-right-wing groups: his post a little over a year ago referred to one in my locality. It is comforting that the police managed to prevent the marchers from causing too much damage.

    Let us hope that they will not be repeated in the future.

    • telescoper Says:

      You can read the official police account of the day here. I understand most of those arrested were counter-demonstrators rather than people involved with the original march.

      • Are the violent counter-protesters too stupid to realize that violence hurts, rather than helps, their cause?

        What one someone do who wanted the EDL to get a more positive media echo? Perhaps recruit people for a fifth column within the counter-protestors to engineer a violent counter-protest. Sadly, I think the explanation is stupidity, rather than a fifth column.

  4. telescoper Says:

    Sadly it seems like one of the injuries was more serious than first thought. A nurse who happened to find herself near the march was hit in the eye by a missile thrown by counter-protestors:

    http://www.sussex.police.uk/whats-happening/latest/news-stories/2013/04/26/nurse-injured-during-march-for-england-event-in-brighton/

    I hope she recovers and that the people responsible are brought to justice.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter,

    I’ve just put 2 and 2 together. The other week a Christian friend said a friend of his was supportive of the March for England and did I share his [my friend’s] reservations? I looked at websites related to the event and said I certainly did share his reservations. However the March For England and EDL seemed to be distinct organisations (eg they have distinct pages on rationalwiki.org) and it is possible that those vile chanters did not regard themselves as anything to do with the EDL. You were there and I’d be interested in your observations of correlations between EDL, MFE, and racist chanters.

    EDL, MFE, missile-throwing counter-demonstrators: I’d steer clear of them all.

    • telescoper Says:

      I wasn’t present for most of the march, but the people I saw were *all* chanting “EEE-DEE-ELL” amongst other things I won’t repeat. This doesn’t prove that they were members, but still..

      For the record, though, I’ll repeat that my earlier comment that the only serious injury caused that day was to an innocent bystander hit by a missile thrown by a counter-demonstrator. Violent extremists from the left are no better than those from the right.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        That the people chanting ‘EDL’ were also chanting racist and antigay abuse is pretty decisive evidence that they have more agendas than they claim. Thank you for this info – knowing somebody present whom I trust is about the only way I could have got it.

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