What country are the EDL trying to save?

“This is my fucking country. This is my fucking country.”

Pinned up against a wall, both arms wrenched behind his back, the man in the football shirt would not be silenced. “This is my fucking country.”

I move closer to get a better view. He sees me: “Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off…” Two policemen try to squeeze him further into the wall, subduing him against the bricks. It doesn’t work.

His face now entirely sculpted by anger, the detainee continues his child-like resistance: “Fuck off, this is my fucking country. It’s my country.”

As he is led to the police van, little visible about the man remains human. His mouth twisted and locked with fury – even his body, contorted out of shape by restraint and rage, seems to betray his animal origins.

His face lit red by sunburn, his clothes dirtied and frayed from the scuffle with the police… one last time before the door is closed: “This is my fucking country.”

Around 200 members of the English Defence League (EDL) journeyed to Walthamstow on Saturday to protest against the town’s Muslim community.

The marchers had dressed their protest with placards warning of “creeping Islamazation” and the “threat of Sharia”, their chants hitting the more base notes of the late Oriana Fallaci, interspersed with modified songs from terraces: “We’re the famous EDL”.

There were no Nazi salutes; there were no visible beer cans. As the group formed outside the station, the pack became recognisable as a football crowd – men travelling on a train to an “away-day” fixture, boozing on the journey, seeing old friends, before meeting the enemy on their own turf.

Once on the march and confronted by a rival protest organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and local residents, some EDL members offered less politicised viewpoints.

“Go and rape your fucking sister,” one man barked to an Asian protester stood on the other side of the police line.

“Shave your beard you dirty fucking cunt,” shouted another.

Non-Muslims – white and black – that showed any form of disapproval were met with chants of “you’re not English anymore”.

Violence erupted on the Forest Road, started by UAF demonstrators, who threw glass bottles into the crowd. One man started throwing flowerpots. The EDL pushed at the police line, but nothing was thrown back.

By the time the marchers finally reached their protest point, the UAF had gathered enough numbers to force the police to call off the event. Bottles hit a van draped in the English flag. UAF protesters shouted: “Without the police you’d be fucking dead.”

More missiles were thrown, now at the EDL leadership who were stood outside Walthamstow Magistrates’ Court, cut off from the main pack.

The man in the football shirt was detained. “It’s my fucking country”

…Except it isn’t his country.

His colour, his culture, his race may put him in the majority, but his views place him firmly in a minority – a minority even smaller than the three million Muslims in the UK that apparently pose such a direct threat to his “British way of life”.

There is a genuine debate to be had over multiculturalism, particularly in regards to Britain’s Islamic community and how to encourage integration without cultural dilution.

There is also a debate about freedom of speech and the right to political protest – a right the EDL was seemingly denied.

More grand still is the question of all religion and whether society can truly progress if shackled with bronze-age beliefs and superstitions.

However, marching 200 angry men up a High Street in one of London’s most ethnically diverse suburbs, while shouting, “fuck off Islam” and “who the fuck is Allah?” does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of political protest, or the points of multiculturalism in the UK or religion in the modern world.

Whatever country the EDL are trying to salvage, it isn’t one worth saving.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

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Paul Ryan, the ‘intellectual leader of the Republicans’

Mitt Romney has ended months of speculation by naming Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate ahead of the November election.

The 42-year-old Wisconsin Representative was unveiled in Norfolk, by the presumptive Republican presidential candidate ahead of a four-day bus tour through key states and battlegrounds.

Appearing alongside Ryan for the first time, and with the World War II battleship, the USS Wisconsin in the background, Romney called his VP pick a “shining exception” in Washington, and praised Ryan’s “character and values”.

“Paul Ryan works in Washington but his roots remain in Janesville, Wisconsin,” said Romney to the delight of the flag-waving crowd, adding that youthful-looking Representative had become the “intellectual leader of the Republican Party.”

The selection of Ryan, revealed by Huffington Post late on Friday night, will be seen as a gamble by Romney, who is hoping that the Representative’s appeal to fiscal conservatives on the right of the GOP, as well as the Tea Party base, will out-way the loss of any moderate Republicans or Independent voters at the polls.

John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign was hugely energised by his selection of Sarah Palin as VP candidate, even if the bounce was only temporary. By selecting Ryan, Romney is betting on a similar boost for a campaign that has come under increasing criticism in recent weeks, not only from Democrats, but from allies within his on party.

In the run-up to Saturday’s announcement, a number of “safer” candidates had been mooted, from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

Yet by selecting Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and the architect of the Path To Prosperity series, Romney is pushing the economy front and centre of his presidential campaign.

Romney’s VP candidate has built his name in recent years on the back of the “Ryan Budget”, a series of radical proposals for the US economy that includes repealing much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), while converting Medicare – the safety net offering seniors access to health care via the state – into a voucher-style system dispensed from government through private insurance companies.

Ryan’s selection will be hugely popular with the conservative wing of the GOP, as well as the Tea Party grass roots, many of who see the repeal of Obamacare and the end to entitlement spending as the key focus of the 2012 election.

Yet Ryan is likely to prove equally as popular with Democrats, who now have the Republican’s poster boy for fiscal conservatism in their sights. Should Obama and Biden defeat Romney and Ryan in November, it would be a resounding rejection of the principles upon which much of the Tea Party has campaigned since 2009, as well as clear rejection of the path of austerity and deficit reduction as favoured by the Romney camp.

Ryan’s budget, particularly the reformation of Medicare, one of the government’s most popular programmes, will give Democratic campaigners another easy line of attack, while large spending cuts, allied to income tax rate reduction, can easily be portrayed as a budget for the wealthy at the expense of the middle and working classes.

And while Romney has been quick to point out Obama’s lack of experience in the private sector, Democrats can now point to Ryan, whose career has been almost exclusively in politics.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.