Exclusive: Britain's Street Protests – What is Going On? (Part Four of Four)
by ADRIAN MORGAN
September 30, 2009
Click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three
The Oldham Riots of 2001
The current problem of groups fighting on Britain's streets has been likened to earlier events. Gerry Gable, the former editor of Searchlight, said: "We're faced with an upsurge in fascist groups, and it's a real problem. This could do more damage to community relations than anything since the Oldham and Bradford riots of 2001 and 2002."
Gable's definition of "fascist groups" is debatable, but his invocation of the 2001 riots in relation to the events of today is sound. Worryingly, it has been announced that the EDL is planning two demonstrations in Oldham and Stoke. The Oldham Chronicle of September 22nd announced that a new EDL group had been formed in Oldham and had already gained 50 members.
Nick Lowles of Searchlight is worried that the planned EDL event could bring back the violence that triggered the original Oldham riots of 2001. Lowles is right to be worried, but he should also be concerned that the UAF will almost certainly be agitating to create, as it has done at previous EDL events, a hostile and violent response to these demonstrations. Tariq Rafique, from Oldham Race Equality Partnership, said: "Their main priority is to undermine the good work done in places like Oldham. They are trying to move us back into the dark days that no one wanted to ever see."
The leader of the Oldham EDL is a 25-year-old man called Michael, and for a decade he has been the leader of a soccer supporting brigade or "firm" which is called Fine Young Casuals. This group was cited as being instrumental in the events that triggered the Oldham riots. When asked by the Oldham Chronicle about his role in the 2001 riots he replied: "We were standing up for something we believed in at the time. But it’s a long time ago and I was young then."
The events leading up to the Oldham riots appear to be these: On Saturday May 26, 2001, two South Asian youths, aged 11 and 14, were attacked on the edge of Glodwick. A brick was thrown at them by a 16-year-old white youth, and one of the boys was struck on the leg. The youth who was hit by the brick went with his elder brother to a house which the attacker had entered. A woman inside the house (Sharon Hoy) became abusive, and claimed in a phone call to her brother that, "Some Pakis have kicked the door in." The woman's brother (Darren Hoy) was drinking with members of the neo-Nazi Combat 18 group, who were visiting from London, along with BNP members and members of the Fine Young Casuals.
The woman's brother and his "associates" descended on the street and began to physically attack and vandalize cars, residences and a hair-dressing business before being arrested. While they had rampaged, wielding an iron bar, sticks and wooden pallets, they also threatened South Asian residents, including a very pregnant 34-year-old woman who needed to be treated for shock. Meanwhile, South Asians started to gather in Glodwick, reaching about 500 by 10 pm. Rioting continued until 5 am. Further rioting continued on the two subsequent days. On the Monday, the offices of the Oldham Evening News were attacked with petrol bombs, and windows were smashed.
On April 3, 2003 Hoy, his sister Sharon and eight other adults, along with two minors, went to trial at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester. On June 13, 2003 all of the adults were jailed, receiving sentences of one year. The Telegraph noted that South Asians who had been convicted of the rioting that had been set off by Hoy and his associates had received greater sentences. At that time, 22 Asians had been sentenced to a total of 75 years (averaging 3.4 years each).
There is nothing to excuse the violence which took place, but tensions between communities were already high. A month before the rioting in Oldham, a 76-year-old man, a veteran of World War II, was savagely attacked by Asian youths. Walter Chamberlain's face (pictured) became a sad icon of the unsettled period.
Additionally, statistics of racist incidents from 1999 to 2000 were gathered by Greater Manchester Police. These had shown that of 646 racial incidents in the Oldham region (Division Q) white people comprised 52 percent of victims. Of all white victims of racial incidents in the Greater Manchester area, 38 percent came from Oldham. The publication of the results may have influenced tensions.
The BBC reported that: "More than 180 of the racial incidents were violent and the vast majority of those were attacks by Asian youths – usually in gangs of anything from six to 20 – on lone white males."
For the South Asian resident's part, it had been announced that Nick Griffin of the BNP would be standing in the June 7th election as a candidate for Oldham West. This news, combined with reports of the police statistics, may have added to pressures they may have felt.
Days after the Oldham riots ended, another outbreak of rioting took place in Leeds, where bricks were thrown at police by Bangladeshi youths. This incident had erupted after police had used rough tactics to arrest Hassan Mir, a local man of Bangladeshi origin.
There were subsequent riots in the north. The first of these took place at Burnley on the nights of June 23 and June 24, 2001. It was later claimed that the Burnley riots had been fuelled by white racists who spread rumors that funding was going disproportionately to different communities. The incident that triggered the Burnley rioting was triggered by an incident in which a South Asian taxi driver was attacked by a group of white men. In the ensuing rioting the Duke of York pub was gutted by fire.
On July 7, 2001, rioting broke out in Bradford, another northern town. The BBC states that violence broke out in the city "after crowds at an Anti-Nazi League rally discovered that National Front sympathizers were gathering in a nearby pub." The Anti-Nazi League gathering had been legally allowed, at the Centenary Square, before it descended into violence. Police were subsequently attacked with bricks, Molotov cocktails and broken bottles when they tried to intervene. Two people were stabbed in the Bradford unrest on that day, and the following day, up to 1,000 youths continued to riot. Three people were seriously injured.
One of the stabbing victims was white, and was surrounded by a dozen young Asians. A witness recalled that: "They corralled him in a corner and started hitting him. He tried to fight his way out but was knocked to the ground and he was punched and kicked. One of the youths then pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the back. Blood was pouring out and I thought he was going to die. It was terrifying."
One-hundred-twenty police officers were injured in the Bradford outbreak. Two-hundred-ninety-seven people were arrested, and 187 were charged. A South Asian businessman was subsequently jailed for an arson attack upon Manningham Labour Club. This had happened while people were inside. Mohammed Ilyas received a 12 year sentence.
After the rioting, the Home Office commissioned an inter-departmental report into the unrest that had led to the rioting of 2001. John Denham, as Home Office Minister of State, was the author of the report, which was entitled: "Building Cohesive Communities: A Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion" (available as a PDF file here). The report drew attention to the agitation by far right groups in the region as a factor in exacerbating the tensions.
Other problems were identified, including:
· the lack of a strong civic identity or shared social values to unite diverse communities
· the fragmentation and polarization of communities – on economic, geographical, racial and cultural lines – on a scale which amounts to segregation, albeit to an extent by choice
· disengagement of young people from the local decision making process, inter-generational tensions, and an increasingly territorial mentality in asserting different racial, cultural and religious identities in response to real or perceived attacks;
The rioting in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley showed that cultures of "parallel lives" were not creating harmony, and there is nothing in Denham's report that supports the notion of "multiculturalism" being successful in the divided communities of the former mill towns. The word "multiculturalism" exists nowhere in the document.
A more extensive report was made by Ted Cantle, which involved three months' worth of research into community relations in Bradford, Burnley, Oldham, Birmingham, Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Telford and Southall, west London. Prior to the release of his report, Cantle said: "I was surprised by the depth of feeling and the divisions in some of the areas and the failure of communication."
The full Cantle report, which was released on December 11, 2001, can be found in PDF format here, entitled: "Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team. The introduction to the report was written by John Denham, who came a little closer to championing "multiculturalism" when he wrote: " The Home Secretary’s response was to set up a Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion to examine and consider how national policies might be used to promote better community cohesion, based upon shared values and a celebration of diversity."
The main points of Cantle's report suggested that people were living parallel lives, and that as communities lived in ignorance of each other, their fears could be exploited by extremists. Cantle recommended improvements in housing, education (where schools appeared highly racially segregated) and also developing a "meaningful concept of citizenship." Cantle suggested too that there should be some concept of citizenship.
On Burnley, Cantle wrote: "There is not just simply residential segregation, but there is separation in education, in social, cultural, faith, in virtually every aspect of their daily lives, employment too."
Five years on, a second Cantle report was made. Unlike the 2001 report, which had visited various communities, the 2006 report focused specifically on Oldham. It is available (in PDF format) here. Though it praised the strides that had been made in Oldham towards improving community cohesion, it also pointed out the need for people across different generations and different ethnic groups and different parts of the borough of Oldham to work together. This suggested that the "parallel lives" which Ted Cantle had highlighted in 2001 remained as an issue.
Sleepwalking to Segregation
On September 22, 2005, Trevor Phillips, the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) suggested that for some communities in Britain, segregated ghettoes were emerging. He suggested that 13 percent of citizens of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin in the towns of Leicester and Bradford were living in ghettos. He also said that schools also becoming more segregated, reflecting the recommendations made in the 2001 Cantle report (p 33, 5.8.6).
Phillips blamed multiculturalism as one of the factors that was allowing Britain to be "sleepwalking to segregation." He told his audience at Manchester Town Hall:
"The fragmentation of our society by race and ethnicity is a catastrophe for all of us. We all have a part to play. Integration has to be a two-way street, in which the settled communities accept that new people will bring change with them and newcomers realize that they too will have to change if we are to move closer to an integrated society.
We already know a lot about what an integrated society looks like. It has three essential features: equality, where everyone is treated equally, has a right to fair outcomes, and no one should expect privileges because of what they are; participation: all groups in society should expect to share in how we make decisions, but also expect to carry the responsibilities of making the society work; and interaction: no-one should be trapped within their own community, and in the truly integrated society, who people work with, or the friendships they make, should not be constrained by race or ethnicity.
There is no doubt that Britain is facing a clear demand to make the process of integration real, active and urgent."
The Commission for Racial Equality, the body then headed by Trevor Philips, had been founded in 1976. Two years after his speech in Manchester, it was disbanded in September 2007. It was replaced by a new body called "The Equalities Commission," which would broaden the scope of interest to include issues of disability and sexual orientation.
On Sunday September 27, 2009, John Denham spoke to Roger Bolton about the Labour government's approach to issues of faith and social cohesion. The discussion was aired on the "Sunday" show on Radio 4. This is my transcript:
RB: "Hardly had he denounced Iran for developing a secret nuclear site and had shaken hands with President Obama after the G20 Summit, than Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on the plane from Pittsburgh to Brighton, where members of the Labour Party are gathering for their last ever annual conference before the general election. Like all the major parties, Labour is keen to ensure that their policies appeal to the increasingly-important faith communities, whose votes could be vital in some marginal seats. The government has recently widened its Prevent Agenda, dealing with violent extremism to include the extreme right and to work more closely at the local level with community groups. I asked John Denham, the secretary of state for communities and local government, whether that meant that its earlier policy, developed in the wake of the July 7 attacks, was flawed."
JD: "It was inevitable that in the rush to tackle this problem which had taken many people by surprise and which many people didn't believe could have happened, Whitehall had to act, and government had to move at the center but - over time - we've learned more about what works, we've seen more of the most innovative and effective work at cutting away the roots of the ideas that could promote violent extremism - a move to local level - and the government strategy increasingly reflects that. So I think it's more an inevitable fact that we had to start in one place and move to another. And each year goes by, the strategy develops as we learn more about what works and more about what doesn't work."
RB: "At the moment, the government won't formally talk to the Muslim Council of Britain, and it's suggested you've lobbied hard for a restoration of relations. Is that true?"
JD: "We work with many Muslim groups and it's certainly the case that there are voices within the Muslim Council of Britain which is an affiliate organization that any government would sensibly want to work with and engage with. But I think as everyone knows, there's been an issue for some months now, about a statement signed by a prominent member of the Muslim Council of Britain which the government felt was beyond the pale and made it difficult for us to engage with the Muslim Council, so our position at the moment is that relations are suspended, but we've made it clear there are people within the MCB that we want and should be working with and we're still exploring how to move forward."
RB: "We've talked about Muslim groups but you've also had meetings with Hindu and Sikh groups. What have they been saying?"
JD: "Well I've had discussion of course with the Christian churches, along with having met with Sikhs and Hindus and Jains and Buddhists, and people accept that most of the funding which is in the system at the moment has been going to deal with the problems of extremism and the dangers of terrorism, but nonetheless, some groups feel that we could do more to facilitate their engagement with government. I think that's something we need to look at."
RB: "Now the government Prevent Agenda has been widened to include the threat of Far Right extremism. How are you going to be dealing with that?"
JD: "What we've done is say that we are going to do in order to undercut Far Right extremism - similar sorts of things that we have done with the Prevent program, recognizing that where people feel alienated, they don't feel engaged, perhaps feel under threat because their community is being changing recently, they don't feel their views are being articulated - that people can be prone to exploitation by extremists, particularly by those who want to reduce every issue to an issue of race, and racism. So we will, over the next few weeks, be engaging in a very determined way in communities where we think that risk is there, and actually challenging the myths that exist - say about the allocation of social housing. But also enabling people to express their concerns and to make sure that we respond to them."
RB: "Some people think you shouldn't talk to the BNP. But it's been suggested that you may appear on the Question Time program with the BNP. Is that the case?"
JD: "The Labour Party has had a long policy of not sharing platforms with the BNP, and that's for the very simple reason that - alone of the political parties of this country, the BNP is founded on the issue of race, defines everything in terms of race, even its own membership. But a situation has arisen. Two members of the BNP have been elected to the European Parliament. It may be that they will be invited onto programs like Question Time. It may be then that the Labour Party has to look at its policy and decide whether it wants to be represented."
RB: "And if asked, would you be prepared to go on Question Time with the BNP?"
JD: "If the view was that it would be better to be there, to make the arguments rather than to have an empty chair, then I personally would be prepared to do that, much as I loathe everything they stand for, recognizing that these arguments are out there and you have to take them on."
RB: "And that to some extent the BNP are reflecting you could say, exploiting, an alienation and disaffection in white working class communities."
JD: "I think they do exploit concerns that people have got, whether it's about migration, whether it's about the returns people get from work, whether it's about access to social housing, or just about the rate at which communities are changing. And you should be allowed to express those concerns, and you should expect politicians to be willing to respond and to deal with them, and if we do do that, then I think we cut away from the BNP their desire to say that every issue must be reduced to racism, and race."
RB: "Still on the subject of cohesion, I want to move onto the issue of "faith schools". Many people support them, of course, but others see them as socially divisive, Does the government believe there is scope to increase the number of faith schools in this country?"
JD: "As I understand it, the number of faith schools is increasing over the years as new faith schools are proposed. I don't think we have either a strategy of deliberately proposing or reducing the number. We reflect the changes that take place in our society. You know, when we've looked at this in the past, we've always been able to say to people opposed to faith schools, there's not much evidence that faith schools are particular problems, or propagators of divisiveness or exclusion or of rejection of shared values."
RB: "And about those communities that want not only faith schools, but would like to see extended their ability to have what you might call faith courts? Is there room for an expansion of such courts?"
JD: "I think the crucial issue here is that everybody in this country, whatever their faith, is equal in front of the law of the land. The law does not stop people going to alternative forms of resolution of disputes. But the law will never say to anybody - 'You have lost your rights under the law of this country because you are a particular faith and your faith asks you to deal with this issue in a different way'. So I think there is always the possibility of people having alternative ways of resolving differences. But I don't think that ever means that you have two classes of citizens, one of which enjoys the full rights of the laws of this country, and others who don't."
RB: "The communities secretary John Denham."
The individual at the Muslim Council of Britain whom Denham mentioned is Daud Abdullah, who is the deputy General Secretary of the organization. He created a stir this year after it was revealed that he signed a controversial document at the Global Anti-Aggression conference in Istanbul. This urged the attacking of Britain's Royal Navy, should it attempt to impede the import of weaponry being smuggled into Gaza for Hamas. Ed Husain of the Quilliam foundation said that Daud Abdullah was "a fanatic."
Hazel Blears, who was Communities Minister before John Denham, condemned Daud Abdullah, and demanded he be sacked from his position in the MCB. He, for his part, has denied that the controversial clauses in the document advocated attacks upon the navy, or attacks upon Jews, anywhere in the world. The government officially shunned the MCB over this issue in March 2009.
There is a touch of hypocrisy about the Labour government and its dealings with "extremists." In the same month that it labeled Daud Abdullah as a pariah, the government intended to have discussions with Dr. Ibrahim Moussawi at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). Moussawi is a spokesman for Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded terrorist group. The Centre for Social Cohesion challenged this decision, threatening to obtain an arrest warrant for Moussawi if he stepped foot in the country. They succeeded and Moussawi was banned from entering Britain.
The government is prepared to sacrifice talks with the MCB, most powerful Muslim representative group in Britain, the sole body that may be able to stop young Muslims from becoming engaged in violent conflicts stirred up by UAF (United Against Fascism). All I can say is that I recently met with Daud Abdullah, and we briefly spoke together about the current situation with anti-Islamic protests and violent counter-protests. He seemed a charming and thoughtful man, despite his support for Hamas. After our conversation, I found myself perfectly able to "share a platform" with him on a show for Iranian-funded Press TV.
Maybe government ministers should grow up and stop being so sensitive as to avoid speaking to people who have views they do not agree with. The Labour Party is, after all, meant to be a government in office and not an exclusive club. At this moment in time, there are threats of more protests, and even though talking may not bring solutions, it may serve to show people that their opponents are not two-dimensional demons, but real people, with real opinions.
There are more EDL protests planned and a planned SIOE protest at Harrow. Much as I wish these events would take place in a low-key manner, without the UAF interfering and turning them into near-riots, the protesters are legitimately exercising their democratic rights for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Maybe the UAF could also "grow up" and sit down with EDL and SIOE members and discuss their differences. Hurling eggs, insults, and inciting young Muslims into violent rage seems a petty – and potentially dangerous - means of dealing with people one does not agree with.
It takes two parties to make a fight. The policies of UAF appear to be aimed at creating violent confrontation, and instead of protecting the Muslim community, the UAF appears to encourage violence of a sort that can easily escalate into a situation that can cost lives. As it is, many young Muslims now are facing criminal charges as a result of UAF's incitements
Even if the UAF is not being deliberately cavalier with the value of people's lives, the fact that it engages in violent confrontation and has published no exhortations on its website for the violence to be "toned down" should be a warning to all. Any of the politicians who have been foolish enough to endorse this group should withdraw their support now or demand that it abandons physical confrontation. By publicly affiliating themselves with UAF, they are publicly defending its tactics of hostile confrontation. David Cameron – the head of the Conservative Party – should be shamed by his party members for supporting street warfare.
For the Liberal Democrats, Alistair Carmichael MP for Orkney and Shetland (LibDem), Paul Tyler former MP for North Cornwall (now in the House of Lords, LibDem) and Mike Hancock MP for Portsmouth South (LibDem). The only non-maintream party members are Adam Price MP for Carmarthen East (Plaid Cymru) and Rev W Martin Smyth former MP for Belfast South (Ulster Unionist).
All the other MPs listed on the UAF website as "supporters" are Labour members. These include some who are now retired. They are: Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London (L), Tony Benn former MP (L) President of the "Stop the War Coalition," Peter Hain MP for Neath (L), David Hanson MP for Delyn (L), Barbara Follett MP for Stevenage (L), Diane Abbott MP for Hackney (L), John Cryer former MP for Hornchurch (L), John Trickett MP for Hemsworth (L), Keith Vaz MP for Leicester East (L), Alice Mahon former MP for Halifax (L now resigned), Alan Meale MP for Mansfield (L), Ian Gibson former MP for Norwich North (L), Harry Cohen MP for Leyton & Wanstead (L), Betty Williams MP for Conway (L), Ken Purchase MP for Wolverhampton Northeast (L), Laura Moffatt MP for Crawley (L), Peter Bradley former MP for Wrekin (L), Vera Baird MP for Redcar (L), Bill Etherington MP for Sunderland North (L), Roger Berry MP for Kingswood (L), Angela Smith MP (L), Brian Iddon MP for Bolton South East (L), Colin Pickthall, former MP for West Lancashire (L retired), Clive Betts MP for Sheffield Attercliffe (L), Janet Anderson MP for Rossendale & Darwen (L), Neil Gerrard MP for Walthamstow (L), Jane Griffiths former MP for Reading East (L, deselected), Brian Donohue MP for Central Ayrshire (L), Helen Clark former MP for Peterborough (L), Terry Davis former MP for Birmingham, ,Hodge Hill (L, resigned), Janet Dean MP for Burton (L), Adrian Bailey MP for West Bromwich West (L), Louise Ellman MP for Liverpool Riverside (L), Eric Illsley MP for Barnsley Central (L), Kelvin Hopkins MP for Luton North (L), Ernie Ross former MP for Dundee West (L), Rob Marris MP for Wolverhampton South West (L), Martin Caton MP for Gower (L), Jim Sheridan MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (L), Martin Jones MP for Clwyd South (L), Colin Challen MP for Morley and Rothwell (L), David Wright MP for Telford (L), Rudi Vis MP for Finchley & Golders Green (L), Tony Worthington former MP for Clydebank & Milngavie (L), Julie Morgan MP for Cardiff North (L), Diana Organ former MP for Forest of Dean (L), Doug Henderson MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne North (L) and Barry Gardiner MP for Brent North (L).
One listed MP who is said to support the UAF - Derek Watts – does not even exist. He could either be Derek Wyatt MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Labour) or Dave Watts, MP for St Helens North (Labour).
Until and unless the Unite Against Fascism group can make a commitment to not encouraging violent confrontation, these politicians named above shame the very name of Britain’s democracy. If British politicians can tacitly approve of tactics of urban warfare carried out in Britain’s cities, they might as well abandon parliament and the rule of law altogether. Giving official sanction to street warfare and conflict is no way to win an argument, and certainly no way to run a country.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Adrian Morgan is a British-based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He also writes for Spero News. He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society. He is currently compiling a book on the demise of democracy and the growth of extremism in Britain.