Tommy Robinson played footage from his wedding day to thousands of protesters outside BBC headquarters after the video he wanted to show failed to load.
Supporters, some wearing hi-visibility vests with “Free Tommy” written on them, gathered from 11am on Saturday in the car park in Salford‘s Media City as the right-wing leader prepared to show clips from a new film.
He claimed the BBC regarded Robinson as a threat to the establishment, and said: “He speaks up for things that are right, he tells the truth and he can mobilise lots of people like you, and that’s what they fear.”
One audience member was heard to say, “What a w*****” during his speech.
Robinson, the former English Defence League leader whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had called the protest to screen his film Panodrama, which he made in response to investigations by the BBC’s Panorama programme into his activities.
He arrived on the stage to chants of “Oh Tommy, Tommy” and told the crowd: ”Evidence of a corrupt media is that not one single journalist in Britain has reported on Panodrama.”
To explain the delay in showing the video, which did eventually play, Robinson said: “The computer, it wouldn’t render. We had to get another computer.”
He played video clips from his wedding day, accompanied by the Take That song “Greatest Day”, in what he said was a tribute to his wife, whose face was pixelated in the film.
About 300m away, an anti-fascist protest was staged, with hundreds holding signs with slogans including “Stand up to racism”.
There was a heavy police presence in the area, with a number of officers and police vans around both protests.
Temporary metal barriers were placed around the BBC buildings and most of the nearby restaurants and bars were closed while the demonstrations took place.
Referring to a court case last year, Robinson, who was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court but freed on appeal, said authorities were considering further action against him.
He said: “Know this, attorney general, I don’t even know what your name is, know this – I dare you to charge me again because I just want to see the scenes outside the courts.”
Canadian musician Kelly Day gave two performances of a version of Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”, with the lyrics changed to reflect the story of Robinson’s court case and a chorus of “how they rule ya”.
Robinson also played a video clip showing him declaring himself “king of the whole Islam race”, which was reported on earlier this month, though he omitted the parts where he boasted about scoring drugs and used a racial slur.
He told the crowd: “F*** you fake news.”
A rally organiser urged those attending not to “touch the photographers or any of the media companies”. He added: “Let them be. Just for today.”
The demonstration ended with the crowd of supporters singing along to Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline”. The BBC reported that some 4,000 had attended.
Additional reporting by PA
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