BBC Documentary on Welsh Defence League

BBC Wales’ Week in Week Out strand carried a documentary on Monday on the Welsh Defence League, the sister organisation of the English Defence League. There were few surprises for those who have been following developments: the programme explained that the WDL’s founder, Jeff Marsh, has a background in violent football hooliganism (see my blog entries here and here), and a voice recognition expert was consulted to confirm that Marsh is the same person as the aliases “Arrylad”, “Joe Cardiff”, and “Mike Smith”. We were also treated to extracts from his balaclava-clad Arrylad discourses.

Predictably, the programme also provided overwhelming evidence that, despite disavowals of racism, the WDL has attracted supporters who are indeed racist, including against black people and Jews. A trawl through Facebook and some undercover recording showed WDL members chanting “If you all hate Pakis clap your hands” and (in the case of a certain “Euge Owa” and Carwyn Wood) boasting of threats and acts of violence.

The programme also highlighted links between some members and hardcore neo-Nazism: present at demos have been Trevor Hannington (currently in jail) of the Aryan Strike Force, and a certain Bryan Powell of Combat 18. He and his brother David Powell, we were told, now run a breakaway “True Welsh Defence League”, based in Swansea. The BBC journalist, Graham Thomas, tried doorstepping both brothers; neither answered their door, although Thomas managed to confront another neo-Nazi, Luke Pippin, while Pippin was out walking his dog. Thomas explained that Pippin had run the WDL website and organised transport, but Pippin insisted that his involvement with the WDL had been “minuscule”.

Marsh apparently declined to be interviewed, while the EDL’s “Tommy Robinson” failed to show up for a meeting with the BBC. However, the programme did make clear that Marsh had denounced racism and the neo-Nazi “idiots” in Swansea. Almost as an afterthought, Thomas explained that Marsh has now disbanded the WDL (which Marsh declared had been “murdered by Nazis”), setting up “Welsh Casuals” in its place. Thomas also listed the “Cymru Defence League” and “Active Welsh Nationalists” as successor organisations, although he gave no details.

Somewhat curiously, an interview with a spokesman from the Muslim Council of Wales was introduced with Tuvan throat singing.