Racial Justice Bulletin – 23 October

This week’s Racial Justice Bulletin brings you commentary from Bradford Council Leader David Green on the financial cost of the EDL demonstration as well as short film from JUST West Yorkshire ‘LIFE AFTER TOMMY: A View from the EDL’ in which our director interviews members of EDL

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JUST Feature Video:

LIFE AFTER TOMMY: A View from the EDL

On the 12th of October JUST West Yorkshire took to the streets of Bradford to document the EDL’s static demonstration.As this was to be the first EDL demonstration since Tommy Robinson’s departure, and a demonstration he had called for, we set out to document the state of the EDL that day. We were able to get our cameras through the tight police security for long enough to produce this snapshot of the mood inside. In this short film JUST’s Director Ratna Lachman asks EDL members how they feel about the loss of Tommy Robinson.

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Feature Article: The EDL in Bradford and the financial cost of free speech

When the EDL come to Bradford, or any other city or town, the cost to the local taxpayer and the anger and hurt caused to the local community are immense and has opened the debate about who pays for free speech.

The right to free speech and peaceful protest has been hard won over the centuries and should never be easily surrendered, even when we find the views expressed to be abhorrent. The EDL, and other right wing and/or racist groups use these freedoms and the legacy of thousands of people who have fought for these rights, Trade Unions, civil rights activists, democracy campaigners and many others, to descend of the streets of, particularly northern towns and cities, to try and provoke and divide the local community. Their intention is in my view clearly not peaceful protest but intimidation and disruption. I am proud that the people of Bradford district have by and large treated them with the contempt they deserved on the three times they have come to the district and ignored their message of hate.

However the cost of free speech to the businesses and people of the district have been immense. The policing bill is over £1m and the Councils liability is around £200000, arguably not the sort of costs you would expect to be associated with a peaceful demonstration. City Centre businesses saw a drastic reduction in their takings on what should have been one of the busiest days of the year, the last Saturday before Eid.

History has shown that the EDL and their ilk do not come to a City to simply practise their right to free speech, but to cause as much disruption and disorder as possible. If they were concerned about the issues that they claim to be raising, as opposed to simply trying to build anti-Muslim sentiment, then they would not be coming only to areas with significant Muslim communities but would be taking their arguments to all parts of the country, their concentration on particular areas and their rhetoric and actions show their racist intent.

If one accepts that the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech, within the confines of the law, how should we deal with future EDL gatherings? How should we balance the human rights of the demonstrators with the human rights of the community where they descend? Who should pay for the policing of these events? What can be done to alleviate the commercial and community harm they inflict? I do not claim to have the answers but I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

If decisions to allow these demos are to be taken at a national level then it is arguable that the costs, or at least an element of the costs, should be borne at a national level, not by local Council Tax payers whose lives & livelihoods are being disrupted.

Those people who organise these demos should not have a real or implied ability to veto the sites offered for their demonstration. This should be a matter for the local authorities, police and Council, to decide giving primacy to the local communities’ needs rather than those of the demonstrators.

We need to consider how the organisers can make a contribution to the costs of policing static demonstrations in the same way that many legitimate organisations have to pay for some of the costs for parades and marches.

There needs to be a concerted effort to reverse the Human Rights argument put by people involved in this type of event and to win the argument for the human rights of the communities that are threatened abused by those invading the heart of their community.

But whilst we can do what we can legally and administratively to negate the effects of these events on local communities the real and harder battle is the one of ideas. Too often we spend our time arguing with the converted about what to do about the EDL and similar organisations rather than going out and taking on their arguments, their prejudices and their lies and cutting of their supply of disaffected and ill informed recruits, filling the vacuum of hate and fear with truth and logic. It is not an easy thing to do with elements of the media all too willing to fuel the racist fires without ever overtly backing these groups, but it is a challenge that we must be ready to take on.

David Green

Bradford Council Leader

JUST’s Pick of the Week:
Absent From the Academy

Last week JUST’s Director Ratna Lachman spoke on a panel at Building the Anti-Racist University Conference at the University of Leeds. She spoke on the issue of Institutionalised Islamaphobia and collusion of Higher Education Institutions in the PREVENT Agenda and the barriers this creates for building anti-racist campuses. You can read her address on our website here.

Continuing with this theme, but switching focus to the experiences of academics, this week’s pick is the film Absent From the Academy. In this film director Nathan E Richards explores the absence of Black Professors in UK higher education institutions.

Absent From The Academy from A Narrative Media on Vimeo.