A LEADING figure in the English Defence League has told the Observer the far-right group will march this weekend ‘to protect the public’.
Speaking ahead of their Coventry demonstration this weekend, national lead for the EDL, Ian Crossland, said the group were marching to force Coventry to recognise ‘serious issues’ in the city.
The 42-year-old from Sheffield, who will join hundreds of far-right supporters in the city this weekend, claimed: “Coventry has gangs grooming youngsters and a high rate of young people being radicalised and sent to fight for jihad.
“There are Muslim imams and clerics in the city who are actively preaching hate and recruiting for extremism.
“This is a blatatent Muslim issue and an issue within Islam.
“While not all Muslims are extremists, there are people that are.”
When asked about the group’s message potentially causing offence to Coventry’s diverse communities, Crossland claimed the EDL were doing a ‘service’ – helping bring the problems in particular problems areas including Foleshill, Radford, and Edgewick Park to the surface.
He added: “Counter groups are just sticking their heads in the sand – what are they doing to combat the problem of extremism and the sexual exploitation of children?
“They are living in ignorant bliss by simply spouting the politically correct line without actually broaching the issue.
“Being politically correct does not help anyone – we are doing this to protect the public.
“I’d happily meet with the Bishop of Coventry and the leading people from Unite Against Fascism to have a frank public debate on the matter.”
Mr Crossland also blamed the media for creating the EDL’s notorious reputation and fueling a ‘witch hunt’ against members.
Claiming most people arrested at EDL demonstrations were actually from counter-protest groups, he argued the EDL had worked hard to move away from their murky, violent past.
The group will meet at the Litten Tree pub where Mr Crossland said drinking will not be banned entirely – attendees instead encouraged to enjoy alcohol in moderation.
“At the end of the day, we are in Coventry to do a job,” he said.
“Yes, it is an emotive subject that people are passionate about, but we are standing up for a cause.”