Saturday 27 March 2010
Luton EDL in Court - Part One
Justice was meted out to four of English Defence League supporters on 19th January after two violent disturbances held in Luton in response to the protest made by anti-war demonstrators at the Luton homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment on March 10th 2009. Richard Myers (21,) Tony Griffiths (27,) Simon Hattle (21,) - all from Luton - and James Butler (18) from West Sussex. All three had already pleaded guilty to affray and were sentenced for between four and seven months in jail. Their offences took place at a protest against Islamic extremism on March 24th which quickly descended into violence. In scenes of great confusion, a small orderly protest by "March for England" was hi-jacked by supporters of "United People of Luton" - an early prototype for the English Defence League. As the Luton News put it (Jan 21st) "groups of yobs, many draped in the flag of St. George, wearing balaclavas and shirts bearing the Luton Town Football Club logo, went on the rampage, fighting battles with the 200 hundred police who were drafted in from across 3 forces."
Richard Newcombe of Bedfordshire Crown Prosecution Service said "CCTV footage clearly showed the men displaying violent behaviour towards others, by kicking out at bystanders and goading police officers. It was part of the prosecution case that some of the defendants deliberately directed part of their violent behaviour towards Asian bystanders."
Three other men who pleaded guilty to the same charge Luke Allsop (28,) Robert Rowe (18,) and Daniel Schreiber (24,) will reappear before Luton Magistrates Court on February 4th for sentencing after having their case adjourned. Another man, Kier McElroy is due to stand trial for racially aggravated actual bodily harm on a date yet to be fixed. McElroy is accused of fly-kicking the Sikh Mayor of Luton, Lakhbir Singh, on the day of the Royal Anglian Regiment march.
The same event as lead to a further two Luton men appearing at Luton Magistrate's Court on Friday 22nd January.Brian Kelso, of Chapel Street, Luton, and Carroll, of Bollingbroke Road, Luton, pleaded not guilty at Luton Magistrates' Court to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Both men were part of a hostile crowd who confronted the Muslim protesters and told them to "f*** off", prosecutor Avirup Chaudhuri said. They also sung a song with the words "Bin Laden's mother is a whore", he told the court. Kelso, a father who had wanted to join the army himself, told the Muslims to "get out of my f****** country" and made obscene gestures, Mr Chaudhuri said. He can be seen on CCTV footage approaching the protesters aggressively and having to be pushed back by the police, he added. Carroll called the Muslims "scum" and "w******", he said, and could be seen on CCTV footage shouting and gesticulating at them. Mr Chaudhuri said: "The two men were in the vanguard of the hostile crowd." Both men accepted that the language they had used was abusive. Father-of-one Carroll, a carpenter, told the court he was "extremely angry and outraged" at the Muslims' protest against the British army. He was not a member of the National Front and was not a racist, he said in his police interview. The trial was adjourned to 5 March and both men were released on bail.
Carroll worded his statement about party affiliation very carefully. True, he has never shown signs of National Front affiliation, but he has been an enthusiastic BNP supporter, living on the same estate as Luton BNP organiser Peter Fehr. He is well-known to local anti-fascists and was only dissuaded from standing as a candidate in the 2007 Luton Council elections by a last-minute plea from his partner, Mary Stevenson. He did, however, sign nomination papers along with Stevenson for the BNP candidate for Farley in that election - Robert Sheddock - and in doing so shows his political colours.
In response to this plethora of unwelcome news stories, Luton Borough Council have launched a new campaign to improve community cohesion in the town - Luton in Harmony. The campaign hopes to reach out to the whole community and build a positive reputation for the town by celebrating its diversity.