Published on 21 Aug 2010 Sections

Race riot fears over anti-Muslim demonstration

As fears of a potential race riot remained today in Bradford, Channel 4 News Northern Correspondent Nick Martin speaks exclusively to the leader of the English Defence League.

In a warehouse in the centre of Luton I come face to face with the man who is in charge of arguably the fastest growing far right organisation in Britain today.

The English Defence League says it will do whatever it takes to “stamp out militant Islam on the streets of Britain”.

But so far, it has developed nothing but a reputation for being deeply racist – a magnet for thirtysomething hooligans.

The leader of this group says he formed the English Defence League after witnessing members of the now defunct muslim group Islam4UK brandish banners bearing the slogan “The Butchers of Basra” as soldiers from the Royal Anglican Regiment staged a homecoming parade through Luton last year.

In that time the EDL has gone from a makeshift living room huddle to an organisation of 15,000 members – if you believe the EDL. Nevertheless, a rapidly growing yet chaotic organisation spreading from city to city, town to town or as the EDL calls them: divisions.

They have regional organisers now and thousands are rallied for the EDL’s main weapon of choice: the city centre protest.

I am facing the man they all follow. Short, young, a baby face. But with eyes which seemed to me to be full of anger and fear. Until now he has concealed his identity and used many pseudonyms. He told me his name was Paul Harris, a carpenter from Luton. To his followers he is known by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson.

He seems nervous and asks continual questions about our story and how he’ll come across. This is the first time he has revealed his face and his identity.

“This is a big thing for me and my family,” he says. “I’ve not done it before now because it’s too dangerous. But there comes a point when you have to put your money where your mouth is – the courage of your convictions, and all that.”

He’s not racist or fascist – and neither are his followers, he says. Few believe that.

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News Paul Harris talks about the forthcoming protest in Bradford, his understanding of militant Islam and how he insists he has control over those who march in the name of the EDL.