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Thursday, 1 August 2013

The English Volunteer Force: A Year On

In November 2012 I interviewed John Sheridan, leader of the little-known, right-wing street movement the English Volunteer Force (EVF)[1]Formed in July of last year, the EVF claims to stand ‘against militant Islam, Republican terror, and the extreme-Left’, while its opponents have branded members ‘opportunistic, racist thugs’.  When I spoke to John Sheridan, his group was still in embryonic form – it was yet to hold a demonstration and  was still very much in the shadow of the English Defence League (EDL). Since then the EVF has tried to establish itself as an independent organisation and has been more active, culminating in its recent demonstration outside Lunar House in Croydon. Last month I met up with  new leader Jason Lock to find out how the EVF has evolved over the past year, and question him on some of his controversial viewpoints. 


Q. What is your role in the EVF?
A. I'm one of the co-founders and leader. It's a shared leadership between me and four others on the inner council.

Q. When the EVF first formed I spoke to then-leader John Sheridan. You have since taken over leadership and John has become the point of contact for new members of the EDL. What happened?
A. John was always a co-founder of the EDL but he left for his own personal reasons and we started the EVF as we believed there were different ways of reaching our goals and achieving our targets. When Tommy Robinson got out of prison, I believe he saw something in the EVF that made him get back in contact with John Sheridan, and John decided it was better for himself to step down from the EVF and go back to the EDL. In my opinion that benefited the EVF as now we're stronger than ever.

Q. How was the name English Volunteer Force chosen?
A. We are English, we volunteer, and we are a force.

Q. I should have known. I thought it may have been a nod towards the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
A. Although we fully support Ulster and the UVF, there is no connection whatsoever. But if we can be half as successful as them over the years, we will have served our country well.

Q. Why did you feel the need to start the EVF rather than simply joining an already established group?
A. One of the many reasons is, I used to be a part of the English Defence League (EDL) but there were some issues after the Walthamstow demo. My wife commented on a post on Facebook and they deleted and blocked her and I thought, 'that's against freedom of speech'. How can we preach freedom of speech when we're against it? So me and a few others got together and started the EVF.

Q. Is there a code of conduct EVF members are supposed to abide by, and if so, how do you enforce it?
A. When we started [the EVF] we wanted to build a good structure with good core members that believe in the way we do things and agree with and stick to the zero arrests policy we've got. In the whole year we've
been operating we've had zero arrests at any demonstration we've attended. [Nb. This interview took place before the Croydon demonstration where two EVF members were reportedly arrested.] After the EVF demonstration Birmingham in January we spoke to the police and they said they had complete respect for how the whole organisation behaved. We're totally different to other groups. We could have all turned up there like a bunch of lads, got drunk, thrown bottles at people, and where would it get us? You just end up being branded as racist, Nazi, football hooligans. On our marches we have zero alcohol because in my opinion that's one of the biggest downfalls so far of other groups. If you get a little old lady walking down the road and you're all standing there drinking your cans of Stella singing I'm English Till I Die, there's no way that little old lady is going to approach you and ask what you’re up to. If you're just standing there and acting accordingly, you're more approachable, which is what we did when we were at Stanmore [demonstrating outside Abu Qatada's house]. We had people crossing over lanes of traffic to approach us to ask us what it was about. You don't get that if you're drunk and throwing bottles around. Online, myself and the other members of the inner council monitor every one of our Facebook pages, and anyone that comes up with any racist posts or any 1488 stuff or Nazi posts gets banned straight away. It's not something we agree with and it's not something we choose to  stand under.

Q. There have been rumours of a merger between the EVF and the English Nation Resistance (ENR). Is there any truth in them?
A. Just before John [Sheridan] left us, he decided we should come under the ENR umbrella, which was good because it gave us a bigger platform of people attending demos and things like that. Then when John  left and we took the helm there were discussions and some things didn't work. I decided I didn't have exactly the same goals as them and we didn't work along the same lines so we decided to break away and continue as ourselves.

Q. In the last interview John Sheridan said you only have white, British members. Has that changed?
A. We have never been just white. We are open to anyone who wishes to stand against any form of extreme terror that threatens our shores. We've got a lot more support now in general and our numbers have grown
significantly. When you last spoke to John he said we'd had 17,000 hits on the website and now we've got numbers in the region of 270,000.

Q. But numbers aside, have you got any members from different faiths or nationalities?
A. We have support from all over the world growing at a nice gradual pace. We don't segregate people in the EVF and create separate divisions, [unlike the EDL who have many, including Jewish, Sikh and
LGBT]. We would just never say no to anybody and I would not put gay and straight people into groups for example, as we're all patriots against the evils attacking our country.

Q. Did Lee Rigby's murder have any effect on your membership numbers?
A. Our Facebook page 'likes' have gone up a bit, but because we thought we'd be a bit respectful over it - we stood back and held a minute silence for him and didn't go rushing off to Woolwich - we didn't get
as much of an influx as the EDL. In my opinion I think that could be a largely false influx. There are a lot of people who are really, really angry with what happened, but whether they're actually going to become active members - 'feet on the street' - and attend demonstrations, nobody will know until the next meet.

Q. I read your Mission Statement and it calls for an "instant halt to all immigration". Does this include European and American immigrants and legitimate asylum seekers?
A. As a whole we need to look at the fact there's a backlog in the UK Border Agency of immigration applications that are going  to take somewhere in the region of 37 years to clear.  That backlog is never going to get cleared unless we put a halt on all immigration at least until we've caught up. The simple fact is, there's half a million people out there that are still waiting for applications to be approved or declined, which is a massive task. In the end quarter of last year there have been about 4000 foreign national offenders awaiting deportation. These people are still in the UK simply because they haven't had their application processed and denied to get them out of the country. If we put a halt to immigration, we'd be able to work on the problems we have at the moment.

Q. What do you think about the immigration amnesty that was recently proposed?
A. I think it would be absolutely insane because even if only one person is let through, that person could be Abu Qatada, it could be Abu Hamza, it could be [Anjem] Choudry. It could be any one of them. That one person could then go through all the prisons, from Feltham Young Offenders Institute, radicalising so many people that we end up with however many more Lee Rigbys on our hands.

Q. I guess it's safe to assume you were very happy with Qatada's deportation?
A. Not fully happy yet. I'd like him to come to justice, but I'd also like his family to be removed from England. His family have got to go because they're living in a house that's being paid for by us and costing our tax payers and our country so much money. Just by removing him it hasn't reduced the cost of what our country's having to pay out to fund a terrorist family. They knew what he was doing so they have to go as well.

Q. Your Mission Statement also calls for an "outright ban on all halal meat".
A. Absolutely. I want to be able to go out and buy a takeaway without having to worry whether it's Islamic slaughtered meat. That's not the way of this country. It's inhumane, it's not right.

Q. What about kosher meat? The animal is killed in exactly the same way but with a different blessing said over it.
A. Kosher meat doesn't fund Islamic terrorism and you don't get Jewish hate preachers poisoning people in England. Halal meat funds Islamic terror and it's also not mandatory to eat halal when it is not available - any meat is fine then. Plus, Islamic takeaways are used for grooming young British girls.

Q. I had been under the impression it was for animal cruelty reasons that groups like the EVF and EDL campaign so vigorously against halal butchery. Or at least that is the most commonly cited reason...
A. Well, it's not a nice way to kill an animal; I prefer the British way of stunning them.

Q. It has been claimed by some that 'Britain isn't Britain' anymore. How would you like Britain to look and what changes do you think need to be made?
A. Unfortunately there's been so much that's happened throughout the country, as much as I'd love Britain to become Britain completely and go back to being a full-on Christian country, it's not going to happen. We know that, but there needs to be a reduction in the number of mosques being built in places like Blackburn, Bradford, Whitechapel and around all these areas. It's not a case of deporting everyone who's not British; without non-British people our country wouldn't survive. You've only got to look at the Chinese restaurants and the Italian restaurants - those are people who integrate and don’t preach hatred for our land and troops. There is so much that benefits from immigration, but there is also so much loss through what's been allowed to happen. The government seriously needs to tighten up immigration laws so they can tell who's coming in and out of the UK. We're selling our country down the river thanks to our government, they're bottling out left, right and centre.

Q. So in an ideal world, do you think England should be a Christian country?
A. I like the idea of it being a Christian country but the simple fact is, our country has bowed down for too long and now it's never going to happen.

Q. Why?
A. There are plenty of religions out there that are willing to completely coincide with everything our country believes in and partake in our country's beliefs, but unfortunately for England, Islam isn't one of them. Our government always tries to appease the Islamic community and it's wrong because they're discriminating against our own community by almost rejecting our Christian roots. For example, so many schools all over the country are saying that they can't have a Christmas nativity, and as a parent I want to see my kids in a Christmas play. I can think back to when I was a kid and my parents loved it. That's been taken away, which means that our people are losing something that's a part of our country. This has always been a Christian place, and if you want to have your own belief then that's fine. I don't have a problem with Islam to a certain extent, it's just the way things are preached at people. The whole part of Sharia Law is that they're meant to come into this country and abide by our ways and not try to change it.

Q. What would have to happen in Britain to make you feel that the continued existence of the EVF wasn’t necessary?
A. A ban on mosques being built, extremists being deported, and halal meat at least being clearly labelled in English. But most of all we want our country back to being ours again, where we can enjoy our traditions without the fear of being called a racist for not appeasing the barbaric Islamic culture.

Q. At an EDL demonstration in Rochdale last June, Tommy Robinson made a speech holding the Qu'ran and a lighter and asked the crowd for reasons why he shouldn't burn the book. Do you agree with that?
A. That's just incitement. If he had done it the police would have stormed the stage and the EDL would have had a riot with the police. It would have been counter-productive as the police aren’t against us.

Q. I don't think Tommy does himself any favours.
A. He speaks a lot of sense but I sometimes believe he doesn't help himself. But I sympathise with the bloke; people have threatened to cut his kids' heads off. I sympathise with that of course but he brings a lot of it on himself. I'm a leader of an organisation but I don't do any television interviews. If I walked in here and you had a camera, I'd walk straight out. I'm not a public face - we've got a media team that deal with that and I've got my wife and kids to think about. They're my reason for doing this - I  don't want my kids to grow up and have to subject to Sharia teaching at school.

Q. Don't you think actions like that and aggressive chanting etc just exacerbate tensions and make anti-Muslim violence more likely?
A. Once when I was on an EDL demonstration in Leicester, a load of Muslim boys came down firing abuse at us and I asked one of the policemen to have a word with them, and he said 'oh they're locals'. I replied that we were on our designated march through the town and were not breaking the law, but when there's people firing abuse at you, how can you expect people not to retaliate?

Q. But surely you’re not claiming the only reason right-wing demonstrations become heated is because Muslims come and abuse you?
A. There is a massive two-tier system. I mean, they burn poppies and flags in London… I hold my hands up, we did burn a flag at Stanmore in the heat of the moment, but we did it to prove a point and still nobody got arrested.

Q. But surely whoever is burning the British flag is doing it to make a point, and the fact none of you got arrested either is evidence enough that a two-tier system isn't in place?
A. They burnt a poppy which is symbolic of our fallen brave, the people who have fought and died to make this country what it is. They gave everything so we could all be here now, and people go out and burn it. The flag we burnt has no meaning in this country and is not symbolic for our fallen brave. If you don't want to respect those people then it's simple – do one. You're not welcome here if you don't want to support our troops.

Q. Chip Berlet, an analyst of the American radical right wrote how last year the US has been 'in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions' in its history'. Do you feel there's been a similar resurgence in the UK?
A. Yes. People have been pushed into it by the so-called religion of peace, which is now showing people what it really is - a barbaric and lunatic ideology.

Q. Do you think that anyone who practises Islam is then, by definition a lunatic and extremist?
A. I believe there is no such thing as moderate in Islam because they all read from the same book of hatred that says all kufrs will burn in the hell fires.

Q. Do you have any words to end on?
A. The biggest problem with the Islamic faith, and what we've got to remember is, in Islam they all put Mohammed up on a pedestal like some kind of great person – he was a paedophile. That's the big problem. He was married to Aisha, she was nine years old and he was fifty odd years old and that's just wrong.

Q. This is a well-worn argument, and to put things in perspective, some schools of thought believe Jesus' mother Mary married Joseph at the age of twelve. Also it wasn't that long ago that it was also the custom for men in in England, for example, to marry very young girls. They're not considered paedophiles.
A. That's a valid point but we have realised the error of our ways in this country and rectified it, whereas in Islam, they  still believe that what Mohammed did was right. Time have moved on and it is paedophilia. Look at these Muslim grooming gangs now. Where do you think they get this belief that it's right to do that? It's obviously because they still believe that what Mohammed did was right.

And on that note we ended the interview.

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