This is interesting given the frequent attempt by some to portray the EDL as a benign force detached from the rest of the fascist and nazi movement in England. The massed ranks of the Aryan Strike Force (ASF) and the British Freedom Force (BFF) have suffered a body blow as Mike Heaton and Trevor Hannington have been sent down for racist comments posted on the internet.
At Liverpool Crown today Michael Heaton was sentenced to 30 months and Trevor Hannington to 2 years. They were cleared of soliciting murder but were convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to stir up racial hatred. It was no real surprise but what is interesting is if any further charges are pressed over similar Nazi websites. Certainly, when Heaton and Hannington were first arrested several posters on the various Nazi forums stated : “If they can get Mike for what he has said on the net then they can get all or the majority of us I would wager.” Heaton and Hannington have a long history of far-right activity and have been filmed on EDL demos.
Libcom have an interesting take on this, highlighting polices frantic attempts to paly down the EDL connections (which seem pretty transparent). On Cops & The EDL they write:
“In Channel 4’s panicky report Heaton and Hannington on Thursday it was interesting to note the reaction of the cops. The current police line is that the EDL have “1 or 2 extremists” but are mostly okay. This new ‘softly softly approach’ started after the EDL leadership were arrested in Scotland and taken back to Sheffield which begs several questions: Why arrest them? Why Sheffield? Was it uniform or Special Branch? Why the sudden turnaround by the cops in Bolton with mass arrests of anti-fascists? Why are the EDL being allowed to turn up in Whitechapel and not prevented from organising in Bradford both of which are sensitive areas guaranteed to kick off? Without getting too conspiracy theory about it, did the police offer a softer line on the EDL in exchange for info on hardcore hooligans before the World Cup as well as on Nazi extremists who the EDL leaders profess to dislike anyway? Without doubt the EDL serve to divide communities and are politically and economically useful at the moment: the EDL enflame Islamophobia which is necessary to continue the otherwise unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as gaining support in any forthcoming conflict with Iran. However, they also increase the ‘need for surveillance’ and stronger legislation on public assembly which will work against them.”