EDL organiser & BNP activist Chris Renton (middle) photographs members of the media at a EDL protest in Bolton. Image © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk 2010
March’s NUJ London Photographers Branch (LPB) meeting saw members vote to condemn the targeting of journalists by the English Defence League (EDL). The motion also agreed that the LPB would support the NUJ Expose The BNP campaign.
EDL street numbers have drastically increased in less than a year. They claim they are a multicultural, non-racist, non-violent organisation, protesting against “militant Islam”. Yet the published photographs and television news reports show a very different picture. Racism, violence, criminal damage and clashes with the police have become standard on their protests. Connections with far right groups have been repeatedly exposed by various news outlets. The EDL claim they are being misrepresented by a left-wing media conspiracy and their response has been to target journalists. For those regularly covering the protests, intimidation, threats and violence have followed.
Email threats have been issued, warning journalists not to document EDL protests. Journalists’ websites have received increasingly racist and threatening comments. Photographs identifying journalists have appeared inside EDL forums and on the website of Casuals United, a group supporting the EDL, set up to recruit hooligan gangs from football ground terraces across the country. Information, names and addresses of journalists have been sought and messages sent out to EDL and Casuals United members to “keep an eye out”, “give them a warm welcome” and “have a word with them”.
Some journalists and photographers found out at the Stoke protest in January this year what ‘having a word’ meant. Several received punches to the head while others came under a targeted hail of bricks, bottles, lighters, coins, wooden debris and burning rags soaked in petrol.
Two months later in Dudley a further four photographers were punched, kicked and threatened. Several of these attacks came from EDL stewards. With the types of weapons being carried during the demonstrations – knuckle dusters, knives, lighter fluid canisters and bottles of bleach – it is clear that the threats against working journalists covering the far right in the UK are extremely serious.
The London Photographers Branch vows to continue supporting all its members coming under attack.