The one image that sums up Birmingham's response to EDL march

'Who looks like they have power here, the real Brummy on the left or the EDL who migrated for the day to our city and failed to assimilate,' says MP Jess Phillips

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The Independent Online

An image shared by thousands of an incensed English Defence League member head to head with an apparently calm but disdainful counter-protester has perfectly encapsulated Birmingham’s response to a march by the far-right group.

Only around 50 members of the anti-Muslim organisation turned up for a demonstration that was largely met by mild irritation and bemusement by people in the second city.

And one picture seemed to sum up the general reaction in a part of the country renowned for its multi-cultural history, the nonchalant defiance and calm amusement of the female protester in direct contrast with the visible anger and hatred on the EDL supporter's face.

The image has been widely shared on social media, with many noting the stark difference in their expressions.

“I love this photo. Look at how helpless, clueless and raging the EDL pr*** is. Look at how in control, calm and cool-as-f*** she is,” said one.

“Ian Crossland EDL leader sh** his pants and shouted for cops to intervene when confronted,” said an anti-fascist activist.

“The past vs the future,” noted freelance reporter James Doleman.

After the EDL announced it would be holding a rally in Birmingham on Saturday, a local mosque opted to counter the far-right group’s antagonism with a “best of British” tea party.

The party at the city’s Central mosque, which saw the building decorated with union flag bunting, was open to all and attended by people from across Birmingham.

EDL protesters were significantly outnumbered by their counter-activists. While the EDL rally attracted around 50 people, an estimated 300 guests attended the tea-party.

The mosque’s chairman, Muhammad Afzal, said: “We are just holding this event to show EDL that Birmingham is a peaceful city and we are all united irrespective of colour, race or religion.”

Local Labour MP Liam Byrne said the simple civility of the tea party, which saw a mixed crowd enjoy tea and cake in the sun, was able to counter the divisive message of the EDL rally. 

He told guests: “This is how we protest – by celebrating the quiet miracle of a normal life and the things that we love most about our city and our country.

“Getting together as friends, getting together as neighbours, breaking a bit of Victoria sponge and having a cup of tea. That is a potent, powerful message that we will send to those who seek to divide us.”

In the end, the rally - condemned by the leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on Birmingham city council - ended with no serious disorder.

Despite the low attendance, there was heavy police presence, including riot vans, in the town centre.

While the EDL demonstration had originally been arranged to take place in the East Midlands, it was moved to Birmingham city centre after the Westminster terror attack to highlight what the group describes as a "continued increase in Islamic terrorism" linked to the city.