Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack

Members of the English Defence League clashed with police after leaders told them to take to the streets

Published May 23, 2013 1:50PM (EDT)

Members of an anti-Islam British group called the English Defence League clashed with police in the wake of the brutal machete attack in Woolwich, as at least two other attacks on mosques in London were also reported.

EDL members took the streets wearing masks, though some draped themselves in St. George's flags or wore black balaclavas with the EDL logo, the Daily Mail reports. According to the Mail, there were 100 protesters there, though Sky News says it was between 75-100. Both report that EDL members threw bottles and other things at police.

"They've cut off one of our Army's heads off on the streets of London," the EDL's leader, who uses the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, told supporters, the Evening Standard reports. "Our next generation are being taught through schools that Islam is a religion of peace. It's not. It never has been. What you saw today is Islam. Everyone's had enough. There has to be a reaction, for the Government to listen, for the police to listen, to understand how angry this British public are."

As Versha Sharma from Vocativ reports, earlier the EDL tweeted to supporters to "get to London now" to "tell the religion of peace we don't need them here." From Vocativ:

The same posts on Facebook have about a thousand likes each and hundreds of comments. While some warn the EDL to stay safe, another one reads, “Let’s get this civil war started!” Over the course of Monday afternoon, the official EDL Facebook page went from 26,000 likes to over 40,000.

Before the Woolwich incident, the group was planning a national demonstration on Saturday, May 25.

Elsewhere, one man was arrested in Braintree, Essex for attempted arson at a mosque, after he reportedly entered with a knife. In Kent, another man was reportedly in custody for alleged "racially-aggravated criminal damage" of a mosque, according to the Standard.

The riots and attacks were a response to the brutal hacking of a man in Woolwich, reportedly a solider, and reportedly committed by two men motivated by radical Islam.

Prior to Thursday, the EDL has had over two dozen demonstrations in various areas of across England, which have resulted in hundreds of arrests. The group also has ties to a number of prominent American Islamophobes, including Pamela Geller, and even had a presence at her rally against the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in New York City in 2010.

The group was profiled by Lauren Collins of the New Yorker in 2011 in a piece about the rise of British Islamophobia. "The E.D.L. bills itself as 'a human rights organization that exists to protect the inalienable rights of all people to protest against radical Islam’s encroachment into the lives of non-Muslims.' Labour M.P. Jon Cruddas has called the E.D.L. 'a dangerous cocktail of football hooligans, far-right activists, and pub racists,'" Collins wrote.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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English Defence League Islam Islamophobia London London Terror Attack