The remarkable ambivalence with which the police treat right wing groups was clearly evident in the policing of the EDL demonstration this week in Leicester. Leicestershire constabulary were clearly happy with facilitating the EDL demonstration, while being equally clearly committed to clamping down heavily on any show of community based opposition, particularly when that opposition came from local Asian youths. One group, which had gathered in a nearby park, were attacked by police dogs, leaving a man in hospital. Others faced ‘robust’ policing from batons and horses.
Despite their assertions that the EDL are not ‘extremists’, the Domestic Extremism Unit did send along their public order intelligence officers Ian Skivens and Mark Sully, accompanied by football intelligence officers from Nottingham and Leicester – these are the FIT cops shown below. Their intelligence gathering was not, however, limited to the EDL, and the FIT cops below appeared to spend more time filming the anti-fascist response than the EDL. Added to that, there were a good number of local intelligence and PREVENT funded cops out keeping an eye on the local youth.
In contrast to environmental and anti-arms trade campaigners, the Domestic Extremism Unit apparently does not consider the EDL an ‘extremist’ group. In April 2011, the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism Adrian Tudway, emailed a Muslim organisation telling them that the EDL are “not extreme right wing”. He added: “I really think you need to open a direct line of dialogue with them, that might be the best way to engage them and re-direct their activity.”
This was a bit much even for some of the police force. Zaheer Ahmad, president of the National Association of Muslim Police, responded: “There is a strong perception in the Muslim communities that the police service does not take the threat of right wing extremism seriously…. The community perception is reinforced by the position of the National Domestic Extremism Unit which does not view EDL as right wing extremists.”
Plain clothes coppers also hung about on the fringes of the EDL demonstration. Those operating within the EDL demo – such as the two shown below – had a very different role to plain clothes cops seen on other demonstrations. No plain clothes snatch squads here. When the EDL kicked off they merely pulled hi-vis vests from their pocket labelled ‘police liaison officer’ and hurried off to ‘liaise’.