Intimidation Year 12
They wore sunglasses and woollen hats, pulled down low. Their clothes were dark. They made their way through the Underground system quietly, on a mission. Every so often one of them would pull out a postcard-sized flyer from an inside breast pocket, spray the back of it with water from a small spritzer, then press it against a wall or the side of a train.
They were discreet.
In one Wednesday afternoon these eight activists had left their mark all over the Circle, Metropolitan, Central, Northern, District and Bakerloo lines. They had used two simple designs: one vilified Allah, the other, his Prophet, Mohammed.
By 7.00pm it was dark and they went to work on bus stops and shop windows in central London. At 10.30pm it was on the TV news and the activists were on their collective way, back up north. By the following morning the newspapers were condemning it. As an exercise in troublemaking it was both predictably, and horribly, effective. The Home Secretary made appropriate censorial and then conciliatory remarks in the House on Thursday afternoon.
After Friday prayers there were angry protests in Bradford, Rochdale, Finsbury Park, Leicester, Southall, Acton, Whitechapel and outside, just about, every sizeable Mosque throughout the United Kingdom.
No organisation or group took responsibility for the action. CCTV footage proved inconclusive due to the crowds and the discretion of the perpetrators. No political party or individual could deny that the flyers were insulting. Of course some people could not resist debating the depth of that insult and yet there was nobody, and nothing upon which a Fatwa could be declared. Revenge could not be served and so the temperature of intolerance relating to inter-racial mistrust rose yet another degree.
Unfortunately a small political party, renowned for its racist views, had organised a march that was scheduled to take place on the Saturday, 15 days after the angry Friday prayer protests. The Home Secretary could not bring herself to postpone this march. The small, racist, political party had distanced itself from the sentiments advanced by the anti-Islamic flyers and had absolutely denied any involvement in their distribution. They went on to talk of freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate peacefully and their march began at 1.00pm on a warm afternoon in June, near Vauxhall Bridge. Many anti-racists had gathered to protest against the march. Many groups of angry young, and some not-so-young, Muslim men had descended upon the city to make their feelings clear. The first clashes started before the march set off.
The first casualty was taken to hospital by ambulance at 1.40pm. The first fatality, a stabbing, took place at approximately 3.15pm, just off Whitehall, in a small street within spitting distance of the original Scotland Yard. By 6.00pm four people were dead, including two marchers, and more than forty were seriously injured with another eighty odd, including five Police officers, suffering ‘minor’ injuries.