The English Defence League (EDL) is notorious: a far-right street movement known for its racism and its sometimes violent, messy protests. Born in Luton in 2009. the movement rapidly grew in size, although its size and influence is now waning. What happens to people who want to leave these movements?
During a visit to Luton earlier this year (writing this report on the Brexit vote for Politico), I met Darren Carroll, one of the founding members of the EDL, which was led by his nephew Stephen Lennon (better known as Tommy Robinson). He spoke about realising that he did not want to be part of a racist movement, and the personal challenges of exiting the movement. I wrote up the interview for the New Statesman, and you can read the full piece here.
Amid attempts to coerce him back into the movement, and concerned about damaging his family relationships, Carroll stayed silent for another year and a half, only starting to speak up a few years after he left the EDL. This triggered a new wave of threats. He reeled off a list of incidents: slashed tyres, smashed windows. “Last week, I got one on Facebook [saying] that I’m a ginger Muslim and I’m gonna get shot. That was someone I know privately, which I don’t take as a threat. Their particular problem seems to be that I’m on record saying I’d have a cup of tea in a mosque and sit down and talk to people.”
I am still covering UK news for Deutsche Welle; some recent pieces include this and this the court challenge to Brexit, this on Britain’s approval of “three-parent babies”, and this on British responses to the Trump victory.