Hate Speech is Not Free Speech – I Don’t Want EDL’s Phoney War in my Town

[CN/TW for racist/violent hate speech]

The EDL in Colchester 26th September 2015
The EDL in Colchester 26th September 2015

This past weekend, the right wing extremist group the English Defence League marched down the High Street of my town.  Over the last four years Colchester – a garrison town which has seen rapid growth, and has a University which also brings in a large number of international students – has been increasingly targeted by the EDL for ‘protests’ which have usually involved gathering at the War Memorial in a display of faux patriotism, most recently in May in ‘remembrance’ of Lee Rigby (against the explicit wishes of the Rigby Family).

Any time this racist group appears in our town I am horrified, but I am not the one who is the target of their hatred, their violence and their desire to eliminate.

I am not the target of their phoney war.

Let’s just make something clear before I go any further, because this is important: if there were no such thing as ISIS, or any other of the tiny minority of radicalised Muslims in existence, these people would still hate Muslims.  They don’t really care about Lee Rigby, certainly not enough to respect his families wishes, but they really hate Muslims. They don’t actually care about child abuse, because they aren’t protesting against the non-Muslim men that abuse children at all. They just hate Muslims. They can stand in front of a war memorial and give Nazi salutes, and nobody should be surprised because they don’t care about the Muslims who worked to save victims of the Nazi’s and who fought and died in both World Wars at the behest of this country. They hate Muslims, and they will use any situation, manipulate and lie about anything, in order to proclaim their hatred.

They are, very simply, racists and theirs is a phoney war. They want to live in a world where they are surrounded only by other white people and their desire to make that a reality, at any cost, makes them extremists, radicalised by racism and a hatred of Muslims. It’s that simple.

It would be disingenuous at best for any authority allowing a full scale march to do so within a ‘free speech’ context: when plastic pig heads are waved openly, and violently Islamophobic chants are made including threats of mosque burning at the very moment a mosque is on fire, it is dangerous for authorities to allow what was in reality hate speech , and incitement to hatred.

(Video’s of the march, the speeches and aforementioned chanting are here and here. Despite the official line, this was not a peaceful event.)

Hate speech is not free speech – the hate speech of the type given free reign on the streets of my town (or any town) is violence: it is sanctioned bullying, a licensed attack against Muslims and a tacit approval of extremism.  The EDL might suck up to the police to claim a veneer of respectability, and the police might imply that the onus of preventing ‘violence’ lies with keeping counter protesters away from the racists (ain’t it grand how ‘free speech’ works?), but the real violence – the real trouble – is the fear that the EDL are allowed to try and generate, and the aggressive intimidation which they are freely allowed to voice.

It would not be a denial of free speech to prevent them from marching in such a manner again. They lose no rights in being prevented from screaming their racist obscenities.  They would still have their hang outs on line and in some dank corner of some rat infested back ally to grumble freely between themselves about ‘Muslamic ray guns’.

But if the steps that we as a society take to say that trying to make other people hate each other because of their race and religion is wrong: let’s not let them march down our streets.