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Community mediation, police, and the English Defence League in Luton

23 May 2012


From Dr Jim Shepherd

Sir, — I was left disturbed by the article “The ‘firm, fair, friendly’ police” (Comment, 11 May). The demonstrations by the English Defence League (EDL) and their opponents were not by two groups with morally equivalent positions, like the two Manchester football clubs, for example. The EDL is clearly a racist organisation whose aim is to sow distrust among communities.

Instead of helping the police to do their job, how much more of a statement it would have been if the Church had been present with banners, processional cross, and robed clergy like some latter-day Rogation parade — not marking out man-made parochial barriers, but barriers based on the biblical principle that we are all made in God’s image and so are all equal.

Second, the description of the anti-racist demonstration was revealing. My money says that not many of those protesting against the EDL would have described them­selves as “liberal”, given the Lib Dems’ connivance with the Tories to demolish the welfare state under the shield of recovering from the effects of the banking crisis. I bet they would have called themselves “socialist”.

In fact, over the past 40 years, it has been Socialist organisations such as the Socialist Party (the old Militant Tendency) and the Socialist Workers Party who have provided the organisational muscle for the anti-racism campaigns. Where were the bishops and the archdeacons? Church leaders’ leading campaigns against racism would have been a visible demonstration that the Church of England has repented of its sinful lack of welcome to im­migrants in the past, such as those Anglicans arriving from the West Indies in the 1950s.

Similarly if the Revd Isabella Image is going to use class imagery, what about calling the trade union­ists “working-class”? Refusing to name those holding the moral high ground adds to the demonisa­tion of the working class.

Finally, I have seen unprovoked policemen and policewomen attack demonstrators; so I can certainly agree that the police can be “firm”. If your contributor were younger and less nice and middle-class, she would quickly find how “fair and friendly” they are.

This demonstration by the EDL was a golden opportunity for the Luton Church to be a prophetic voice for justice and tolerance. Instead, it has confused being the Established Church with being the Church of the Establishment.

41 Oakland Avenue
Haslington, Crewe CW1 5PB

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