Inside the EDL: A day at the racists
Ugly people with ugly views. The true face of the English Defence League revealed itself during a hate-filled march in Walsall last weekend.
In a briefing in advance of the event EDL leaders claimed the group is often misinterpreted as racist by opponents who want to discredit them.
They have the country's best interests at heart, they say.
We sent a team of undercover reporters to find the truth – and they did not have to dig too deep to unearth the real EDL.
Our team arrived at the Oak Inn in Green Lane dressed in sports jackets and baseball caps and mingled with the demonstrators.
Outside the scene in the gravel-decked beer garden was like the family picnic from Hell. Young children playfully ran around while members of the far-right group – many of them draped in the flag of St George - poured lager down their necks in advance of the march.
The atmosphere was subdued initially, but in the mid-morning sun it did not take long to strike up a conversation with a portly, bearded 30-something who smelled like he had not seen soap in weeks.
He told our reporter he feared the West Midlands had become 'overrun with Muslims'.
"Birmingham is finished; it's all Muslims," he said.
"And the same thing is happening over here. Wolverhampton, Walsall, the Muslims will have it all soon.
"They call it a loving religion but all they want to do is terrorise us. People need to wake up. We need to stand up to terrorists on our doorstep."
In an attempt to keep order at its notoriously troubleplagued marches the EDL now has 'security officers' tasked with keeping the peace.
One of them, dressed in a 'high-vis' vest, grinned as he harked back to the group's last visit to the town.
He told our reporters: "Everyone's ready for this one. It could get messy again like in 2012." As buses pulled up, the new arrivals were greeted like family with toothless smiles and outstretched hands.
Most seemed known to one another. They adhered to the all too familiar dress code of the thug: Burberry, Stone Island and Fred Perry.
Muzzled rottweilers were kept on leashes as the sound of Sham 69 and the Sex Pistols filled the air. Men and women alike proudly displayed their tattoo-covered flesh as a sea of giant St George flags sullied with the motto 'No Surrender' waved in the light breeze. People came from far and wide.
From Sheffield, London and the North East. One group of men proudly chanted Millwall songs; the strains of 'No One Likes Us, But We Don't Care' bellowed out as it has done on so many occasions that have featured hatred and violence as key ingredients.
There was also a strong contingent from Walsall, Wolverhampton and Cannock.
The Black Country flag, already at the centre of an acrimonious racism row regarding the chains emblem, was also on show. In the cupboard-sized gents' toilets, our team found EDL members snorting cocaine from their palms in the absence of a flat surface.
Party activists handed out inflammatory banners reading: 'Rape Jihad', 'No more mosques', and 'Sharia Bullies'. A female broadcaster was forced to flee the scene with her camera crew after being insulted and threatened by EDL supporters – one of whom had to be physically restrained by party security officers.
Among the crowd purporting to be patriots was one group from Darlaston proudly posing for a picture in front of a Union Flag with 'Darlo Wolves' emblazoned across it.
Ironically none of them had noticed that the motto had been printed with the flag upside down. Despite the group's claims of being a legitimate protest movement many of those present did not seem the type to engage in reasoned political debate.
As the clocked ticked closer to 1pm, tensions started to rise. The songs became louder as the crowd gathered in Green Lane in anticipation of what was to come. Jostling Some protesters were bouncing around, jostling each other and shouting anti-Muslim songs and the anticipation approached fever pitch.
A group of drink-addled Londoners stood by the beer garden entrance bellowing 'Come On!' and 'Let's Have It' to no one in particular.
Our reporters edged their way into the middle of the chanting throng as the marchers made their way on the 15 minute journey to Gallery Square.
Many protesters appeared agitated and screamed abuse in all directions. They wore balaclavas, covered their faces in scarves and some even wore pig masks, clearly meant to provoke the Muslim community.
Once there the speeches started – but some EDL supporters had violence on their minds. An EDL supporter from Cannock approached one of our undercover reporters and sparked up a throw-away conversation about his mobile phone not working properly.
Despite not having met any of our team before, within minutes he had told them that 'eight or 10' EDL supporters were planning to target one of Walsall's mosques later in the day to 'stir things up a bit' with members of the town's Muslim community.
The man – who was being filmed from a few inches away by another one of our undercover team – invited our reporter to 'stick around at the end' to join in. Mumbling in congruously long sentences he called Cannock the 'last standing little piece of England and described the council as 'racist'.
Our reporter asked him how he was going get past the police, he said: "I'll get Cannock taxis cos all the taxis around here are ******* muzzas anyway. "I'll get them in from Cannock. All Cannock taxi drivers are ******* white."
The proposed trouble never happened, while Cannock Council leader George Adamson described the claims as 'absolute rubbish'.
He said: "Cannock Council does not operate any racist policies, indeed our new director of housing is a local Asian woman. There is a relatively small number of non-white residents but that is just how things have happened – not because of any intervention by the council."