“What In The World Is Going On" is a new column from Step Up Magazine that educates our readers on what is happening internationally. We cover the big news stories, but also tackle global issues that are not as mainstream.
Tommy Robinson, the former leader and co-founder of the English Defense League (EDL), a right-wing activist group primarily focused on “exposing" Islam, has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for contempt of court, as well as an additional three months for the breach of a previous suspension. His arrest sparked protests from far-right activists all across the UK on June 9th.
This isn’t his first offence. He has a history of starting fights, traveling with fake documents, and committing mortgage fraud. Robinson is known to be violent and he even lost a previous airport job because he punched a police officer. Tommy was also recently banned from Twitter for using hateful speech on the platform.
Photo: NASA on Unsplash
For those who aren’t familiar with him, Tommy Robinson is considered to be the face of the far-right public. Robinson has acquired a large social media following, mainly consisting of Islamophobes, racists, and Neo-Nazis. His supporters have taken to Twitter with the hashtags #FreeTommyRobinson and #FreeTommy. Marches turned into riots and violent protests have erupted in the events following his arrest. His supporters marched holding images of Robinson and waving flags on June 9th, advocating for his release.
The way these protests are being carried out shows a lack of structure and organization. No matter what his supporters wish to happen, the fact that Robinson did something illegal still remains a reality, which is why he was sentenced to jail time. The court has no reason to release Robinson and there has been no speculation from the court or his supporters regarding whether or not his actions truly warrant jail time. These protesters came with no real argument as to why he should be released. The situation worsened when the marches became very violent as protesters began to chase police officers, make rude gestures, and vandalize a sightseeing bus. Road signs and metal crowd barriers were used as weapons and five policemen were injured in the process. The charges on some of the protesters make it easy to view Tommy Robinson supporters as a violent group. One protester was arrested for carrying explosives, six for public order offences, and another for the possession of offensive weapons. To make matters worse, protesters marched right into the nude bikers march that was occuring on the same day.
According to The Independent, Nick Ryan, director of communications at organization Hope Not Hate, commented on the situation saying that “normally things on the far right fall apart because there are a lot of internal disputes but [Robinson’s imprisonment] is acting as a lightning rod for different groups to come together… what’s disturbing is that these groups who would normally support strong law and order don’t apply it to their own side."
These marches have publicized the types of people that support Robinson, which is a reflection of Tommy Robinson himself. During #FreeTommy marches, photos surfaced with far-right activists unashamedly doing the Nazi salute and holding banners with “f*** Islam" written on them. The blatant Islamophobia displayed by this march is another indicator of the worsening support for the Islamic community. Coupled with the recent situation of Muslims living in China being placed in concentration camps where they are forced to commit sins that go against Islamic laws, the lack of Muslim solidarity around the world has become even more pronounced. These hateful acts are occurring during the month of Ramadan, a religious holy period dedicated to worship, love, and improvement.
Tommy Robinson has become a figure that has allowed racists and Nazis to unite. The violence from the marches is the result of such bigoted people advocating for the release of a criminal who, in the eyes of the law, very much deserves to go to jail.