Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Darwen party founder defends EDL march role [Blackburn's the Citizen]


- 21st July 2010, by Catherine Pye

THE man who founded the For Darwen Party and stood to be the town’s MP has defended his attendance at an anti-Islam march which was marked by violence.

Michael Johnson, of Dean Street, who also came up with the idea for a town council, said he was “disgusted” at what he witnessed during the English Defence League march in Dudley, West Midlands, at the weekend.

And he blamed the police for violence and vandalism.

Mr Johnson said: “I wanted to go and see what it was all about, because it’s only a matter of time before these things come to Blackburn and Darwen.

“What I saw was disgusting. I saw police officers slamming their shields down on demonstrators and sending women and children out to where there were hordes of Asian males waiting for a fight.

“How somebody wasn’t killed by the actions of the police that day is beyond me.”

Mr Johnson, who stepped down from politics after failing to land the Darwen and Rossendale parliamentary seat for the English Democrat Party in May, said he had written a formal complaint to West Midlands Police and Dudley Council about the policing of the event attended by about 500 people on Saturday.

A total of 21 arrests were made, including 17 for violent disorder, two for affray, one for a public order offence and one for possessing an offensive weapon.

Mr Johnson, 50, has always claimed he is not racist, but said he “supports the ideologies” of the EDL.

On its official website, the EDL says it “can see the threat of ‘Islamism’ for what it is: a vile and virulent ideology based on 7th century barbarity, intolerance, hatred, subjugation and war”.

It goes on to say: “English Defence League members recognise that this threat is one that must be stopped at all costs.”

Mr Johnson said: “I have a lot of connections with a lot of English groups and I totally agree with them (the EDL) being against Islamic extremism.

"Surely everyone is?

“But that’s not being racist. How on earth can I be racist when I’m mixed race myself?”

West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said: “A great deal of effort went into facilitating a peaceful protest by the EDL.

"We worked very hard to try and make this event pass off peacefully.

“It is hugely disappointing that despite these efforts there were still elements from the English Defence League and local youths intent on causing disorder.”

Hamid Qureshi, of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said protests of this nature were “misconceived and innappropriate”.

He said: “People have a right to march, but if the aims they are marching on are poorly conceived, they are demonstrating hate against a section of the community and that is not positive at all.

“This creates oppression for a certain set of people.”

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