'Their true intentions were clear from their banners, one with the term 'Rape-ugees''
On Sunday the English Defence League (EDL) came to Colchester again. They had originally planned to come on the Saturday but they found this clashed with the FA Cup Final.
They told the police there would be a major demonstration, but in reality 13 people turned up, claiming that their purpose was to place a wreath at the War Memorial in memory of Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered by Islamists in Woolwich in 2013.
The mere presence of the EDL defiles the dignity of this symbol of sacrifice and heroism of our armed forces. Colchester is a garrison town and its war memorial has seen many dignified and poignant ceremonies. This was not one of them.
The family of Lee Rigby want nothing to do with this abuse of his memory. There are thousands of real troops in Colchester, many groups that support veterans and causes linked to the army. None of these groups in any way supported this demonstration.
According to the police none of the EDL demonstrators even came from Colchester. They were clearly not welcome.
The EDL were met by around 50 local people, from anti-fascist groups but also local trade unionists, and members of various political parties. The police briefing said a wreath would be laid, and the groups should stay in designated areas, which happened as planned.
There was a request from the protesters that the wreath-laying should not be followed by a Nazi salute, as happened on a previous occasion.
The EDL now claim that they wanted some kind of formal silence and this was interrupted by the protesters who showed disrespect.
This is nonsense, as it was not agreed with the police and the event was in any case disturbed by tourists and visitors who were already being allowed by police to move around the memorial, somewhat confused by what they saw.
Police escorted the EDL members back to the coach station, and a police officer politely intervened to stop someone removing the wreath. It was replaced and remained there intact.
This was not any kind of dignified ceremony. It was an EDL demonstration, by people wearing offensive T-shirts and holding banners. It had nothing to do with a ceremony to commemorate Lee Rigby.
The same EDL demonstrators turned up later that afternoon to threaten and abuse Syrian refugee families with children at a picnic arranged by local faith groups and charities.
The EDL’s true intentions were obvious to all from the banners they brought with them – one using the term ‘Rape-ugees’.
No doubt angry at the abject failure of their EDL protest, some extreme elements have turned their hatred onto those who were protesting against them.
They have managed to identify a few from photographs and are orchestrating a vile campaign of hatred against these people, including against a well-known local councillor who attended and provided a quote for the local paper saying the EDL were not welcome in Colchester.
As ever there are threats of all kinds of violence, as usual mostly directed at women. The police are investigating numerous incidents.
The assertion that those who opposed this EDL demonstration were somehow showing disrespect for Lee Rigby is obviously untrue and absurd.
Take a look at the Facebook campaign of New Daily Patriot, and the glee in orchestrating violent sexual abuse and extreme threats against anyone speaking out against the EDL is plain to see.
Orchestrated through Facebook, the campaign of threats and vile abuse continues. There is talk of a further major demonstration later in the year.
For now the focus is on Colchester but who knows where these extremists will choose next time. Fuelled by fear and loathing, they reference their violent threats and actions back to events that simply did not happen.
Wherever they go they must be met with dignified but determined opposition. They represent nobody and their creed of violence and hatred has nothing to do with the commemoration of a young soldier’s life.
The author of this piece, who witnessed the EDL event in Colchester, asked to remain anonymous for their own safety.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.