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Middle East Forum bankrolls violent 'Free Tommy' rally

Longtime anti-Muslim figure Daniel Pipes and his group the Middle East Forum (MEF) recently took credit for financing a rally in London last month in support of English far-right provocateur Tommy Robinson (aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon).

The June 9  protest took a violent turn and ended with multiple arrests after pro-Tommy protesters assaulted police.

In a July 8 press release, Pipes and his organization claimed they funded and organized the event. MEF also announced they are helping fund Robinson’s legal defense and would be helping to organize another rally in support of him later this week.

The London rally was in response to Robinson being sentenced to 13 months in jail after he was found guilty of being in contempt of court for potentially spoiling a just trial. On May 25, in effort to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria, the far-right agitator showed up to make a scene at a courthouse in Leeds, England that was holding a criminal trial for individuals accused of involvement in child-sex abuse rings known as "grooming gangs" which allegedly target and exploit young girls.

Ignoring a court order barring coverage of the trial, Robinson live-streamed defendants as they arrived for the trial. He was eventually arrested for breaching the peace and later sentenced that day. Robinson had been convicted for a similar offense last year but served no jail time after a judge suspended his sentence.

The former English Defence League (EDL) leader’s sentencing sparked outrage among various right-wing movements, including U.S.-based anti-Muslim activists, who elevated him as a “free speech” martyr. Far-right activists from around the world took to the streets to protest his imprisonment.

MEF is a think tank more known for its academic approach to fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment than organizing mass protests. But the group ended up organizing one of the ugliest rallies worldwide.

The London rally was reminiscent of past EDL rallies which were notorious for violence and attracting neo-Nazis. During the event, Robinson supporters clashed with police, throwing objects like traffic cones and other projectiles at officers while calling them “Nazi scum.” Some of the pro-Robinson protestors were also spotted throwing stiff-armed fascist salutes. According to Hope Note Hate, a UK-based anti-racist organization, the rally attracted various factions of the British far-right including Generation Identity which Robinson has associated with.

On June 19, a letter was published in The Guardian with over 50 signatories, including British parliamentarians, condemning the rally calling it a “resurgent of the racist right.”

“The racist right are using Robinson to reorganize,” the letter states. “Nazi salutes and Islamophobia were at the centre of the mobilisation. This is the first serious attempt since the collapse of the English Defence League (EDL) to develop a racist street movement and give it a political form.”

Prior to the violence on June 9, several prominent European far-right figures kicked off the rally by addressing the crowd. One of the headliners was Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, whose inflammatory rhetoric about Islam had once barred him from entering the UK. Wilders riled up the crowd, telling them, “our governments sold us out with mass immigration.”

Pipes and MEF have a history with Wilders. Pipes has repeatedly doubled down on his support for Wilders and his hateful and divisive rhetoric. In 2009, MEF’s Legal Project assisted Wilders with money and legal advice when he was accused of violating Dutch anti-hate speech laws. MEF announced its Legal Project also would help fund Robinson’s legal defense. Pipes is a fan of Robinson’s and called him a “leader” in a recent interview where he mentioned spending a day with Robinson last December in his home town of Luton. On top of his support of Robinson, Pipes continues to be an advocate for partnering with far-right parties in Europe.

MEF announced they are funding another “Free Tommy” rally in London on July 14. Wilders is once again scheduled to speak at the event where he is slated to share a stage with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who is scheduled to attend courtesy of Pipes’ organization.

In its press release announcing the event, MEF made no mention or condemnation of the violence that erupted at the previous protest. And given the far-right thugs that are drawn to Robinson and his message, one can expect more of the same this weekend. 

Photo credit: Getty Images.





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