This first-hand report from the ICLA website recounts what happened when several members of the English Defence League (EDL) in Bristol attended what was advertised as a “public” meeting by United Against Fascism (UAF). The response of UAF members to the presence of “racists” and “Nazis” in their midst illustrates what Humpty Dumpty said:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
So much for the words “public” and “free speech” when uttered by the “anti-fascists”.
Here’s the report from ICLA:
The following is an account from a member of the English Defence League who attended a UAF ‘public meeting’ in Bristol:
Through facebook I heard about a public meeting being arranged by the UAF on the 17th of March in the railway club by Temple meads in Bristol, as a member of the public and proud member of the EDL I put this on the EDL Bristol divisions facebook page and decided to attend myself.
I arrived with my girlfriend Ruth (who is also a proud EDL member) There were about 40 people present, we didn’t know then that about 10 other loyal EDL members were present. To begin with the meeting was a shambles as the main speaker had cancelled and the replacement speaker had not arrived.
The man leading started with a brief description of the UAF explaining that the organisation was a coalition of socalist worker party and several trade unions but surprise surprise at no point were the links between the UAF and the Labour party mentioned. He went on to explain that they were dedicated to stopping the spread of the BNP and their racist foot soldiers the EDL, I couldn’t help but notice how he used the usual UAF propoganda method of putting the BNP and EDL in the same category but in spite of this slur the EDL members present did a remarkable job of not rising to the bait.
Then as he had no notes and needed to stall for time until the speaker arrived he opened the floor to questions from the public.The first woman to speak told of how she had rounded up a few neighbours to confront a BNP canvasser in her street (so much for free speech and democracy).
The second person to speak started by announcing that he was a supporter of the EDL, as these three letters left his mouth you could hear an audible gasp from the UAF people as they realised that there were patriots in the room, before he said another word the woman who organised the meeting took her phone out and as she left the room myself and Ruth heard her saying “I’d like the police please…” we didn’t hear anymore of her phone conversation as she quickly shut the door behind her, once again I shall say so much for free speech and so much for being a public meeting, after all we the EDL are members of the public!
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The EDL supporter tried to speak again but every time he tried to speak he was assaulted by cries of “racist” “facist” and “nazi” the speaker struggled to make himself heard over the crowd and reminded them that this was a public meeting and everyone had a right to speak, he said that all speakers had a three minute time slot to have their say (this was not mentioned for the previous woman who spent at least five minutes talking) and I firmly believe this was only to buy time for the police to arrive as the EDL man and his friends were at the back of the room and would not have been able to hear what the woman had said on the phone.
The gentleman from the EDL carried on speaking but with frequent interuptions from people hurling abuse. Anytime he was interrupted in this manner myself and the other EDL members countered with calls of “what about free speech” and “It’s a public meeting”. The EDL man speaking informed the crowd that he wasn’t a BNP supporter but was in fact currently serving in the forces, once he mentioned that he was in the forces the UAF refused to let him say another word without being verbally abused. Up until that point I was merely annoyed by the lack of manners and decorum displayed by these thugs but once they refused to let one of our brave soldiers speak freely I was absolutely disgusted!
At this point the meeting broke up into small groups as the UAF supporters continued shouting the usual insults anytime any of us tried to speak, the men of the UAF looked like rabbits in the headlights and the women who did most of the shouting had the most hateful looks on their faces, I was quite shocked by the level of hatred even though I have seen many videos of them on demonstrations, Ruth and me managed to have a brief conversation with a man in his 40s, he was willing to listen to what we had to say which I found surprising but we were frequently interrupted by heckling from the other UAF members as they shouted abuse and generally tried to goad us into being aggressive towards them, I believe we at least managed to convince this one man that we weren’t racist or fascists and he did say at one point “If I thought you were nazi’s I wouldn’t be talking to you” I only managed to get that far because another UAF member pushed himself between us and accused me of racism, I simply replied that Islam is a religion not a race so I was not under any circumstance a racist, he then said there is nothing wrong with sharia law so we shouldn’t be against it, which really shocked me, I explained about men being allowed to hit their wives and this idiot responded “so what?” I mentioned that if that happened in a normal relationship the police would charge the man, he said that they wouldn’t!! I then mentioned that the independent think tank Civitas have published a report that sharia law goes against human rights he responded that they weren’t independent and so could not be trusted. No matter what I said he disagreed and I was no doubt that he was trying to goad me into a fight, so I ignored him as I have no intention of getting a police record for such a loathsome excuse for a human being. It was then that approximately 20 police officers arrived and began asking us to leave the building whilst the UAF members moved the meeting to another room in the building.
The EDL members did as requested and made no efforts to obstruct the police in carrying out their duty, I did advise a few officers close to me that it was advertised as a public meeting and we had done nothing wrong, the officer closest to me was very apologetic when he explained that as the UAF had paid for the venue they had a right to change it to a private meeting and had unfortunately aked the police to remove any EDL members.
As me and Ruth were led down a corridor towards the exit several officers blocked the hallway to separate the unruly UAF members from us, one UAF member who had been silent up until then looked around the police line and shouted fascist at us, Ruth turned and gave him a Paddington hard stare and he shrank into hiding behind the police line like a true coward.