I live in a pretty non-descript town. There’s nothing particularly interesting or unique about the very boring commuter belt town of High Wycombe located halfway between Oxford and London.
So when it was identified by the far right wing group the English Defence League (EDL) as the ideal town for its demonstration because of its apparent links to Islamic terrorism, High Wycombe was in danger of being placed well and truly on the map for all the wrong reasons.
Around 1,000 protesters were expected after the EDL decided to descend on High Wycombe yesterday (Saturday 9 April). Counter demonstrators came in the form of a variety of anti-fascist protesters and both sides traded insults as the march took place.
A total of 300 turned up whilst some estimates were as low as 25 and as many as 75 for the EDL supporters.
Our two-bit town played host to a less than defiant, rag tag band of rather disheveled looking predominantly white and shaven-headed protesters. There seemed to be the odd display of defiance – a few finger gestures, a fist in the air and, of course, the inevitable placards identifying the place of origin of their bearers including Colchester, Newcastle and Liverpool.
It would have been far too easy for your average Islamaphobic to join their rallying cry. But instead the people of High Wycombe, mostly, stayed home or at least far from the madding crowd.
The lack of support made me proud to be a High Wycombite!
I don’t even know how to refer to a person from High Wycombe, it’s not something I have ever sought to say until now. Now I want to shout from the rooftops ‘I’m from High Wycombe, the two-bit town which didn’t play host to the EDL’.
If there’s one thing we British are particularly good at, it’s the art of the understatement which by default becomes the loudest shout out possible.
And a graphic illustration of such irony was personified with absolute clarity on the streets of our wonderful town. Our lack of support for the EDL sent a very powerful message: We will treat extremists (of any persuasion) with the contempt they deserve.
Although we are also a town which obviously doesn’t suffer fools.
If you read the placards sported by the EDL supporters, it’s clear there was little cohesion. It ranged from anti-EU slogans to anti-immigration messages. Given that the majority of migrants to this country are from the EU with populations similar in make up to the UK, it’s difficult to understand how their ‘no refugees’ slogans fit in with their Brexit rhetoric and ‘no more mosques’ demands.
As for the refugees themselves, the UK has welcomed numbers far lower than its EU friends. In fact, the number of asylum seekers per 100,000 heads of population was just 60 for the UK compared to 587 in Germany and an EU average of 260.
Meanwhile, the EDL itself declared High Wycombe should be the most relevant town to stage a protest because of its links to Islamic terrorism.
It seems these people are struggling with that age old conundrum of knowing their arses from their elbows.
When you have a vast swathe of people supporting such outlandish and incoherent views, it’s worrying. But if there’s one thing the High Wycombe EDL protest proved, it’s that these people are as few and far between with as little support as the Islamic extremists from whom the EDL is purporting to save us. Thankfully.
Wycombe District Council was criticised for allowing the march to take place and questions were raised about the cost of the police presence which numbered practically one officer for each demonstrator. However, I am glad it went ahead.
The pathetic support for the EDL sent its own powerful message which would otherwise have been missed. Plus had we banned the EDL march we would have been playing into the hands of the extremists by providing them with the opportunity to argue discrimination.
Sleepy, boring, non-descript High Wycombe. Population around 120,000, 81% white, 12% Asian (including those of Chinese origin), 3% black and 3% mixed race, according to the 2011 census. I do believe you did put yourself on the map, but for all the right reasons. You snubbed extremist views in a very British, low-key manner and by so doing, stood up to be counted.
Proud to be High Wycombe born and bred. I tip my hat to my fellow townsfolk. The lack of support for the EDL was a great day for democracy, diversity and plain, old fashioned commonsense.