HUNDREDS of supporters of British far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson brought a London street to a close on Thursday (27) protesting his contempt of court case, which was later adjourned.
Around 50 counter-demonstrators chanted “Nazi scum, off our streets”, as Robinson, who founded and later left the anti-Islam English Defence League (EDL), arrived at court for a hearing.
He is facing a retrial after an appeals judge last month quashed a contempt of court conviction – for a breach of reporting restrictions around a trial – and ordered his release from prison.
Nicholas Hilliard, the judge now assigned to the case, on Thursday asked Robinson’s legal team to send more detailed arguments before deciding if, and when, to hold another hearing.
Robinson, who counts former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as a supporter, won the challenge in August against an initial 13-month prison sentence.
He had been jailed for contempt of court and breaching a previous suspended sentence, having used social media to livestream events outside a court in Leeds, northern England.
He told reporters on Thursday that he was a victim of “political persecution”.
The former football hooligan, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, set up the EDL to protest against Islamic demonstrations in his hometown of Luton, but it soon attracted a far-right crowd as it became a nationwide movement.
His recent legal woes began after he was first convicted of filming inside a court building — an offence — during a rape trial in Canterbury, southeast England, in May 2017, a year before the incident in Leeds.
His supporters, many carrying flags and placards reading “Free Tommy”, chanted his name and mobbed him as he left court on Thursday, promising to return for his next court date.
Ralph Masilamani, 51, said Robinson was an “unheard voice”.
“I may not agree with everything he says but we’ve got a right to freedom of speech,” added Denise Nordstrom, 55.
But anti-racism protester Weylan Deaett accused Robinson of “trying to whip up division,” adding it was “important that good people stand together so we don’t have the tragedy that beset Europe before.”