Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Once Upon A Time In Luton

Dear Readers,

So, this should have been a simple train journey into London on a Saturday...

Getting tickets was easy, getting a seat was easy, I knew where I wanted to go. What could go wrong? I only made one slight miscalculation on my journey. This miscalculation manifested itself a few stations down the line.

Having ensconced myself on the train I committed myself to making three stars on some Angry Birds levels that had been bugging me for an age (for the record I got one more, several more to go). Digressing already!

I was half listening to a conversation being held further down the carriage between two employees of the train line operator regarding current upgrade work that was going on which interested me because me and my dear wife use this line quite regularly. However as we approached their eventual destination (not mine, I had much further to go) the conversation turned to the what the police had been doing to the town in advance of the march.

My half listening capability tuned in and reached full listening (I don't have the ability to give 110%, oh and neither does anybody else, sports people, office workers, anybody!) Digressing again.

"So they've turned the centre into a fortress, nobody can get in or out" said one of the charming and suddenly reassuringly large gentlemen that were sharing my carriage. A short transcription between the two lovely gentlemen who I will coin Fred and Bill ensues:
  • [Fred]: So, what the police have done is lock down the entire town centre so no one can get in or out.
  • [Bill]: Really and why have they done that (Bill, like me, doesn't read the papers).
  • [Me, Quietly]: Really? And why have they done that!?!
  • [Fred]: Look, you can see what they have done if you look out the window...
  • [Bill]: Blimey. (A man of few words).
  • [Me, Quietly]: Ah, so the entire town centre has been zoned off with very expensive looking barbed wire fences, yet it looks deserted. I wonder where all this trouble could be. Oh and look yonder, judging by the number of special incident vehicles strategically parked over there they must have been expecting the mother of all battles.
  • [Bill]: Wow
  • [Me, Quietly]: OMFG
  • [Fred] Yeah, it's the English Defence League Rally.
OK, worth dropping out of the conversation for just a mo, especially if you are reading this outside of England, just to put this particular group and current location in to context. So the English Defence League, is what appears to be an organisation of disenfranchised football hooligans who want another excuse to fight. Along with some others who undoubtedly have some deep concerns about the national identity of Britain, ah, the ultra-nationalists then. Happy campers, one and all. The last time they visited Luton the trouble caused was almost apocalyptic.

So back to the train... by now we are rolling into town station...
  • [Fred]: Blimey, there's loads of 'em.
  • [Me, Quietly]: OMFG, there's loads of 'em
Six deep at the platform, however there is a comforting police presence. Upon departing the station stop, my carriage is populated as follows:

Me, a very nervous looking black couple who had jumped on at the last station, a large number of English Defence League supporters and a noticeable absence of Fred, Bill and more importantly the police!!! As you can imagine my joy at this turn of events could only be measured by a machine that was designed to measure unfortunate turns of events and convert these events into joy.

Whilst staring fixedly at my phone in the hope of staying alive, occasionally I would steal glances in their direction, interested in their attire, and also their demographic make-up. Depressingly, mingled in with the largely older and expected hooligan scum-bags were a small number of younger activists. Even more depressingly, the young feminine side was also evident - something that was seen much on the hooligan terraces where a lot of these idiots were brought up. They flagrantly wore their "colours", EDL badged hoodies along with (in the feminine cases), English badged wellies (seriously)!

In their extremely limited defence I have to state that nothing bad happened to anyone, apart from a severely increased heart-rate for myself and the unfortunate black couple who, as far as I know, continued their journey without further harassment, as did I.

And so to wrap up...

About 1,500 EDL members (if that is how you refer to them), managed to make it to Luton. The bill for policing this group came in at about 800,000 of your English pounds. Add to this the cost of locking down a town centre on a Saturday, which, at time of writing I do not have the numbers for. It would appear that the right to free speech can actually be quite expensive.

As a result of the measures imposed this rally passed off peacefully.

There still appears to be a number of people in this country who just want to fight, and they will jump on any band-wagon to ensure they have a justification. What worries me is the ones who want to fight use and use belief (be it religious or political) as an excuse to cause some trouble.
Belief can be a wonderful thing, but so dangerous in the wrong hands, especially if those hands are quite happy to use them.

More soon dear reader xxx

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