Tommy Robinson, the English provocateur who has a lengthy track record of anti-Muslim activism, is hoping to capitalize on newfound fame by embarking on a lucrative worldwide speaking tour.
Over the summer, Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was elevated to a free speech martyr on the international far right after a stunt he pulled outside of a courthouse in Leeds, England, that had potential to spoil a just trial. He was arrested, and right-wing personalities quickly flocked to his cause.
He currently faces charges of being in contempt of court for violating a court-ordered media blackout surrounding a criminal trial. In May, Robinson was arrested and convicted for filming defendants arriving at the courthouse. The defendants in the high-profile criminal case were accused of involvement in child-sex-abuse rings known as “grooming gangs.” Robinson's initial 13-month sentence was later quashed, and he was released on bail in August.
Robinson’s travel plans are pending the outcome of the case, which has been sent to the attorney general. However, he is already making plans to tap into a network of international supporters who rallied behind him.
Rumors about an upcoming world tour surfaced during a controversial luncheon for Robinson in the House of Lords. On Monday, Robinson announced plans to tag along on an Australian speaking tour featuring Gavin McInnes, leader of the street-brawling hate group the Proud Boys.
Robinson posted a video saying he’s joining up with McInnes on what is being billed as “The Deplorables” tour. “I guess there’s going to be a lot of people getting triggered in Australia and hopefully a lot of people happy I’ll be coming,” Robinson said in the video. This will not be the first time McInnes has given the former English Defence League leader a platform. The EDL are a thuggish anti-Muslim street movement that, like McInnes’ Proud Boys, have engaged in violent street actions.
Robinson’s Australia announcement came at the heels of news last week that he had been invited to speak in the United States by Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum (MEF), the anti-Muslim hate group David Horowitz Freedom Center, and seven members of Congress, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona).
He is slated to appear in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 at a closed-door event sponsored by the Conservative Opportunity Society, which is chaired by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). Robinson is also advertised to speak at a ticketed event later that day.
Robinson will not be the first controversial figure to speak at the Conservative Opportunity Society. Previous speakers include former Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon, anti-Muslim demagogue Brigitte Gabriel and Austrian anti-Muslim activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.
Pipes’ MEF bankrolled two “Free Tommy” rallies in London over the summer, including one that turned violent. Pipes’ group paid for Rep. Gosar to attend and speak at one of the rallies on July 14. MEF also helped fund Robinson’s legal defense and has vowed to “continue to support Mr. Robinson personally.”
Robinson’s past criminal conduct could complicate his travel visa to the U.S. In 2010, he was barred from entering the country while trying to attend a protest against the Park51 Islamic Center in New York City. Two years later, he used a friend’s passport to illegally gain entry into the U.S. to speak at a gathering put on by Stop the Islamization of Nations (SION), a transatlantic anti-Muslim coalition headed by notorious Muslim-basher Pamela Geller. Robinson’s rap sheet also includes assault, drug and public order offenses and mortgage fraud.
The Guardian recently described Robinson in an Oct. 25 article as part of “a new breed of entrepreneurial activists who are bringing extremist myths into the mainstream.”
“The real challenge posed by the far right is its success at spreading anti-Muslim and xenophobic attitudes in society at large.” The article concludes, “Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is just one symptom of a bigger problem — which must be challenged, locally and internationally, before it starts to do serious damage.”