In a surprise announcement, English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has announced he is leaving the far-right group he co-founded, due to worries about far-right extremism.
Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - made the announcement through “counter-extremism think tank” Quilliam, which claims to oppose “Islamic extremism”. EDL deputy leader Kevin Carroll is also quitting the group.
2. In the statement, Robinson said:
I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.
4. Robinson confirmed the move via his Twitter account:
Tommy Robinson EDL
http://t.co/StUhFotoR3 hope people listen to my reasons
5. As recently as last night, he was still retweeting pro-EDL messages.
EDLTrobinson speach at #towerhamlets http://t.co/KOl1ioYa9u have 2 say it was all true & 2 the point. We need 2 make a stand
6. Although he was having difficulty sleeping.
Tommy Robinson EDL
7. EDL supporters weren’t entirely happy about the news:
@EDLTrobinson tommy you can’t quit! We need you
Respect @EDLTrobinson and @EDLKevCarroll1. Gutted to read they have left the edl looks like these terrorists have won absolutely gutted
Just last week, Robinson had attempted to intimidate the owner of an anti-EDL Twitter account by tracking him down and posting pictures of his house on Twitter. Unfortunately for him, he’d misidentified the account’s owner, and was posting pictures of somebody else house.
Robinson is a former BNP member who co-founded the EDL in 2009, initially in response to demonstrations by Muslim groups. He has a number of criminal convictions, including for assault and for using somebody else’s passport to try and enter the USA. That he may have been keen to move away from the street tactics of the EDL was suggested by his brief membership of the British Freedom Party in 2012, during which time Robinson suggested he would stand for parliament.
While the EDL leadership has claimed that the group is a tolerant one which simply opposes Islamic extremism - pointing out that it has a small number of non-white and LGBT members - this has often not been matched by the behaviour of its membership. EDL demonstrations have regularly led to violence, and journalists attempting to cover their protests have frequently been the subject of intimidation and death threats.
Robinson and the EDL have been heavily criticised for attempting to inflame tensions, and for trying to politicise the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. Their demonstrations were regularly met with large protests from local communities - and also a good deal of mockery.