A video has been circulated on Twitter, showing a Tommy Robinson supporter verbally abusing a journalist from Al Jazeera, at last weekend’s “Free Tommy” march in London.
The video, filmed by Sonia Gallego and posted by her on Twitter, shows only the face of the supporter, who is looking straight into her camera as he addresses her. The beginning of the interaction is clearly missing but the clip shows the following exchange:
Gallego’s colleague, off-camera: “We’re doing a job, innit… nothing else”
Supporter: “Yeah, I know… I’m asking a question, and if you don’t…. you’re not answering the question.”
Gallego: “You came very aggressively at me…”
Supporter: “No, I asked who you were with”.
Supporter: Yeah, well you ain’t got it on camera … I’m asking you who you’re with, are you with Tommy Robinson or against him?”
Gallego: “I…we’re not… we’re journalists”
Supporter: “So I’m asking you who you’re with? What is your organization?”
Gallego: “We’re journalists. We’re with Al Jazeera…”
Supporter: “Oh okay…
Gallego: “..and we do not have any sides of anything”
Supporter: “Oh right… so you’re Muslim-backed then, ain’t ya. Muslim-backed”
Gallego: “What does that mean?”
Supporter: “Are you fucking stupid? Are you thick?”
Gallego: “No, well explain to me, ‘cos you’re so intelligent apparently…”
Other supporter, off-camera: “She’s sucking you in, I’d walk away. She’s sucking you in….”
Supporter (to his friend): “Yeah I know.” (Turning back to Gallego): “You know what – you’re a slag!” He then, sensibly, walks away.
Now, despite the eager calling of many people on Twitter for the man’s details to be passed to the police – his face is, after all, absolutely clear in the video – I sincerely hope the police do not see this as a matter for their attention. Besides an aggressive tone and a couple of insults, the man does not appear to have physically threatened or come close to assaulting her in any way. As a journalist, I would expect she has a fairly tough skin and has probably been called worse things in the past. And I expect our police have better things to do with their time than arrest anybody who is a bit unpleasant towards another person.
But the video does warrant comment from the organisers of the march. Were he not in prison, it would warrant comment from Robinson himself.
The supporter’s implication is clear. In his mind, anybody attending the march must be either with Tommy Robinson, or against him. And in his mind, the fact that she is working for a “Muslim-backed” organization gives a clear indication of which side she is on.
Robinson, and his supporters, constantly complain that they are mischaracterized by the press as “far-right” and “racist”. They constantly argue that their marches are not about a hatred of Muslims but about wanting to challenge an ideology that they feel is responsible for the recent terrorist incidents in London and Manchester, as well as the overly politically correct mindset that saw police and social services turn a blind eye to the mass rape of underage girls in towns across the country.
They constantly, and quite justifiably, express outrage when our politicians churn out lines about the latest terrorist atrocity being “nothing to do with Islam” despite the terrorist using the words “Allah-u-Akhbar”. And they constantly point out that when the terrorists themselves are claiming to be acting in the name of Islam, then it is up to followers of Islam to denounce those acts.
They should understand, then, that when a supporter goes to a “Free Tommy” march and makes it clear, on camera, that in his mind, anybody working for a Muslim-backed organization must be “against Tommy”, that sends a clear message that the supporter, at least, believes the march to be an anti-Muslim event. It is not sufficient for Tommy or the organisers of the march to simply churn out the same old arguments about not being able to control who attends their marches, and the press always showing only the badly-behaved protesters, rather than the tens of thousands of peaceful ones.
If Tommy Robinson’s supporters wish not to be branded as racist, and wish their grievances to be taken seriously, they have to publicly denounce the man’s words – to publicly state that their marches are not anti-Muslim, that they don’t endorse such attitudes, and that anyone turning up to their marches with a grievance against Muslims, or any other group, is not welcome. If Muslim leaders are expected to denounce every crackpot jihadi who purports to commit atrocities in the name of Islam, then it’s only right and fair that Tommy Robinson and the organisers of events in his name, should denounce every crackpot idiot who claims to be “with Tommy” while misrepresenting his cause. Unless, of course, the man’s interpretation was entirely accurate.