Protests over murdered British soldier, pressure on Cameron

LONDON Mon May 27, 2013 1:42pm EDT

1 of 6. 'Unite Against Fascism' demonstrators shout across police lines at 'English Defence League ' demonstrators, during a protest in Whitehall, organised following the recent killing of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, in London May 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Around a thousand far-right protesters shouting "Muslim killers, off our streets" marched through central London on Monday against a backdrop of swelling anti-Muslim feeling following the killing of a British soldier last week.

Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old soldier, was hacked to death in broad daylight in a south London street by two men who said they killed him in the name of Islam. The attack has shocked Britain and stirred an anti-Muslim backlash, including attacks on mosques.

In a tense but largely peaceful demonstration, supporters of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) rallied in London outside Prime Minister David Cameron's residence waving placards and shouting anti-Islamic obscenities.

"Islamic extremism is probably the number one threat to Britain," said one protester, Ben Gates. Other demonstrators chanted "Muslim bombers off our streets".

Another protester, Samuel Hames, said, of Rigby: "He survived his tour of foreign lands and comes home to his family and what happened to him is disgusting."

Nearly 2,000 people marched at a similar demonstration in the northern city of Newcastle on Saturday. Two men were arrested overnight for throwing firebombs at an Islamic cultural center in Grimsby, in the northeast of England. Similar attacks were recorded last week.

As anti-racist groups warned there could be more reprisals, Cameron came under intense pressure on Monday for going on holiday, with pictures of him relaxing in Ibiza prompting newspapers to question his leadership at a time of unease.

"Is Ibiza chillaxed (relaxed) enough for you, Prime Minister?" asked the right-wing Daily Mail newspaper.

Faith Matters, a charity working to defuse religious tensions, said it had registered a spike in reports of Islamophobic attacks in calls to its hotline, describing incidents as "very focused, very aggressive attacks".

Two war memorials in London were vandalized with red graffiti overnight, including the word 'Islam' spray-painted onto one monument.

Suspects Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, allegedly ran over Rigby with a car near his army barracks and butchered him with knives. Police shot the two, and they remain under armed guard in separate London hospitals.

In a dramatic video clip shot by an onlooker and shown on British television, one of the two men, his hands bloodied, says he killed the soldier in retaliation for the deaths of Muslims killed by British troops in faraway lands.

Police have arrested 10 people in connection with the murder. Three people have been released on bail.

The attack prompted an emotional outpouring of sympathy in Britain, with well-wishers laying hundreds of flowers in the street where Rigby was killed. But some were openly angry.

"We've had enough of our soldiers being abused... We'd had enough of the plots and the violence," EDL wrote on its website.

In an attempt to counter the right-wing rally, anti-fascist group Unite Against Racism held its own demonstration nearby but was heavily outnumbered by EDL protesters.

A handful of far-right demonstrators threw bottles and coins at the anti-fascist rally. Police vans and officers blocked the two groups from approaching each other.

"They are a minority and a very scary growing minority," an anti-EDL protester who gave her name as Clara said. "I feel ashamed to be a Londoner today. This is disgusting."

(Editing by Maria Golovnina and Michael Roddy)

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Comments (7)
ArribaJuarez wrote:
Do Costas Pitas, Maria Golovnina, and Michael Roddy of Reuters consider all individuals who oppose the killing of British citizens in the name of Islam to be fascists, or just those who mention it?

May 27, 2013 1:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Radek.kow1 wrote:
I’m not English, but living in England I agree with EDL. We have the right to live in peace, and islamists are no common criminals so they need extra attention. Anti-EDL protesters are lunatics in this instance.

May 27, 2013 2:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
FatherJames wrote:
…The majority of Moslems in the UK are decent and law-abiding. It would be a massive injustice for them to suffer because of the actions of rabid fanatics.

…On the other hand, the Moslem community in the UK needs to do more than “deplore the actions of the misguided…” They must help root out those criminals in their midst who try to recruit from their community.

…The UK government needs to look seriously at its immigration policy. Two issues need addressed re any future immigrants… (Sweden finding this out now as well) Are potential new immigrants committed to learning the language of the country… and do they have respect for the laws of the country?

…In the UK (unlike Sweden) at least most of the kids of immigrants willing to learn the language. But too many do not feel morally obligated to follow any laws at odds with Sharia… a fundamentalist code that has no place in a democratic land.

…The Moslems who abide by the laws are under two pressures… they are scorned (and sometimes threatened) by the radical elements… and have a natural reluctance to turn in co-religionists to the authorities. This often happens in minority communities and the problem never improves until the decent element decides that whatever faith the radicals proclaim… that they are threats to all…

…The UK government (and the Moslem community) need to act before there is a massive backlash and goons get elected to office on the promise of persecuting Moslems and other immigrants.

May 27, 2013 2:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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