nick morris

At about 3.30pm the EDL contingent had been thoroughly shown up. Having seen them shouted down by a large and vocal group of anti-EDL demonstrators, I was ready to go home content that the world, or at least Cambridge, remained decidedly anti-fascist.

This all holds true. But with one proviso: Saturday’s EDL contingent were more organised than their inebriated performance suggested.

At the end of Christ’s Piece, after we had passed the EDL cage, I spotted a tall, fairly well dressed fi­gure taking pictures of the anti-EDL marchers. I stood to watch him. He appeared to be photographing the most vocal protesters, or those assuming a leadership role within the anti-EDL group.

I hung around, sipping coffee and watching. Every time the protesters chanted “EDL, go to hell, take your Nazi mates as well” or “Nazi scum, off our streets”, he would tense his jaw and shuffle his feet. So I decided to ask a friend to take a picture of him together with three EDL members standing behind him. As he got his snap, one of the men, a skinhead with a big gold loop earing, lost his temper: ”Stop taking fucking pictures of me. I am just a man on the street. If I get hold of that camera, I tell you. I don’t go around taking pictures of you, so don’t take pictures of me.”

He remonstrated with the police officer, who responded, “They are evidence gathering, they have a right to take photos. You can’t complain, your friend is taking photos too.” The police officer then asked the man his name and told him to behave, and that he would be keeping an eye on him. The men, particularly the tallest who was still taking photos of protesters and ignoring the scuffle going on beside him, resumed their relatively relaxed posture.

I decided to try and strike up conversation with the louder guy who’d reproached my friend for taking a photograph of him. Shoving my voice recorder into my hood, I wandered over on the pretext of needing a lighter.

The following conversation is taken directly from my transcripts of the conversation.

“What happened then?”

“Well this bloke, tried to take pictures of me. Cocky prick isn’t he. I just don’t like people calling me a Nazi. I’m not a Nazi. All the EDL are doing is standing up for what they see. There’s no need for people to call them Nazis. The Nazis would be the BNP. I don’t agree with the BNP because the BNP are total Nazis. They have no time for anybody. But we are not all like that, you know. They just target the same people. You stand here with an England flag on and you’re a Nazi. What’s that about?”

The tall photographer remained silent, pretending to ignore our conversation.

After I successfully lit my cigarette, he then wandered over and inquired who I was and what I was doing. I said I was a student, just wandering around getting some coffee.

After some general ramblings on the day in general, I directed conversation towards what the tallest man was doing here. He was initially evasive, but eventually began to open up. It never takes that much reassurance to get someone to talk.

“Well, I take photos of that lot. The police take photos of the EDL, always filming, so I take photos of them. We can keep track of who the important guys at these things are. We don’t all stand over there shouting [gesturing to the EDL compound]. Some of us are intelligent with what we do. But we all have the same idea; we’re looking at what we see around us. We see the advancing of the Muslim Law, we see these communities who can’t even speak our language, and we say no. We don’t want that. We want to keep our country English. What is so wrong with that? I say to these protesters: what is so wrong with that? They think they are so right with their banners and stupid chants, but they’re not.”

I pushed him: why couldn’t he be open about who he was? “I’m from Norwich, you see. It’s different in Norwich, you just don’t recognise the place you grew up in. But if I came down here with an English flag, I’d have to [be] shut up over there [with the other EDL protesters], but I’ve not said who I am so I can be here doing this [taking pictures of key anti-EDL marchers]. I won’t tell the police who I am, even though they keep asking me and probably suspect.”

Perhaps the EDL have to be in there because of some of the other stuff they had done? The EDL are refused mobile protests because they have so often ended in violence and disorder. “You think we are the violent ones? These Socialist Workers party people and the UAF, they’re the violent ones; everyone knows they’re the ones who get violent whenever they hold their rallies. When the next Islamic bomb goes off in London though, they’ll be the ones who change their minds when they see their children being killed by the Islamist terrorists. We’re not Nazis, we’re not racist, I’ve got black friends, I’ve been to Jamaica. If I wanted to be a racist, I could join the BNP. They’re the fascists really. We do more than people think we do, we don’t just protest and stuff but we work out what we’re up against.”

What to make of all this information? Here was a man, neither physically nor verbally intimidating, playing a specific role collecting information about opposition protesters.

Later in the day, I followed the police as they escorted away the two EDL members whose presence sparked off the ‘missile’, or as it later transpired, a biryani, being thrown by an anti-EDL protester who was then arrested. The two men, completely inebriated, informed me, “this is fucking English, England and English only. If you want a Mosque, go home and build yourself one, but not here. This is fucking England and everyone should know that, we’re English, I’m English and that’s what matters.”

It is this sort of behaviour which makes us dismiss the EDL. As they are currently perceived, the group could not politically persuade the British public. An evidence-gathering and well-versed ­figure who stands apart from the louder, drunken contingent is, however, an alarming prospect.

Commenting on Varsity’s evidence, Dr Gerry Gable, an expert on the EDL and British far right said, “taking photos in itself does not break any laws, but it does when the people who are doing it or their associates then threaten to track down the people being photographed via their Facebooks or in other electronic ways. What people may do with those photos after may be more worrying.”

The secret surveillance by this individual raises the question: what information do the EDL have about you?

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