Unexpectedly observing the Justice for Chelsey event in Sunderland

Satruday the 13th was quite the unusual day for me, for normally if I have no plans to leave the house on the weekend I usually become quite liberal with my use of the shower. That morning however was different, without any intent of going out I instinctively went in the shower, for a good 20 minutes too at that. Maybe it was because the thought of just popping down the town did cross my mind for a few moments as it would mean I had something to do. After I showered I even got myself ready to go out, still with no intention of it, opting to wear some real clothes as opposed to the pajamas I’d normally wear to laze around in the house.  It turned out to be good fortune for in my Facebook newsfeed I noticed there was an event on in Sunderland that day, “Justice for Chelsey” to take place at Park Lane. This was quite unusual considering how unpolitical Sunderland seems to be, the honour for political capital of Tyne and Wear usually goes to Newcastle.

Justice for Chelsey is a group campaigning for justice to be brought against the perpetrators of the kidnapping, abuse and rape of Chelsey. A mother of three from Sunderland who went on a night out, woke up undressed and covered in bruises in a strangers home, she quickly realized what happened and eventually managed to escape her captors. It never occurred to me but I actually already knew this story. Around two years ago there was a viral post making the rounds on Facebook which contained a few lengthy paragraphs describing the horrific events and some photos showing the bruises the length and breadth of her body. Eventually after a years worth of investigating by the police they dropped the case due to “lack of evidence”, thus every since there has been a campaign going on searching for justice.

According to the event page it was due to start at 1pm in Park Lane, although it was simply the speaking area as there was to be a march from Hendon which started at 11am. Since Hendon gets itself a bad reputation I thought I’d just watch the speeches happening at Park Lane. Impatient as ever I left early, giving myself some time for dinner as well as the opportunity to pop into my friendly local gaming store. Initially only one person was there but as time went on more people showed up, discussing how things were going with the store and films such as Rogue One. Eventually I mentioned what my business in town was besides a friendly little chat, this is when things became interesting.. After all once people found out I was going to observe the march which was soon to take place, all manner of jokes and frivolous opinions were thrown around, with virtually all of them aimed at the negative stereotyping of the EDL and its supporters. Eventually after some good banter and some absolutely savage jokes I left for it was close to starting time for the event.

I still had  few minutes to spare, and it seems like they would be a little behind, so I quickly went for some dinner. Can’t beat a good bacon sandwich. Upon returning I could see that the march would soon reach its speaking destination as the police came out of their cars and vans to set up a perimeter around the place. At last, first contact. From the distance you could hear the chanting of the crowd as they marched up Holmeside, chanting “Justice for Chelsey” as well as “Whose street? Our Street!”. There was also someone with a megaphone, though I can’t distinctively remember what they were saying, presumably leading the chants. As typical with events like these I expected around 100, maybe even 200 people at the most. However I was soon to be flabbergasted as there were at least a 500, maybe even 600, strong crowd marching towards Park Lane. Waving banners, wearing badges and holding placards demanding justice, along with the chants, it was a sight to behold. Even when the vanguard reached its destination it still took a good few minutes for the bulk of attendees to arrive. Eventually they all settled round a bench outside Arizona, giving the speakers a good vantage point to see the depth of the crowd, to listen to the speeches to come.

There were around 5 speakers who spoke at the event, one or two of them are recurring figures whom I’ve seen at EDL events before. The most infamous speaker of the day however was none other than Tommy Robinson. Infamous for this stance on Islam and mass uncontrolled immigration hes been the former leader of the EDL as well as one of the founders of the Pegida chapter in the UK.  Now hes a journalist for the conservative media outlet Rebel Media, who also employs Lauren Southern. Unfortunately for those who were at the back of the crowd it was quite hard to hear what some of the speakers were saying, usually with these events the sound systems are never great. I could hear snippets of what was being said along the way. The gist of them was at first to focus on the poor victim in all of this, Chelsey, and her ordeal. Then it developed into an attack on the police, for their ineptitude and incompetence (a few times people berated the policeman I was standing next to), then it carried on to rail against mass uncontrolled immigration, its effects and the politicians who have caused this it. Namely the main culprit in all of this was Tony Blair and his administration which came to power in 1997, lasting until 2010.

Some would see these speakers as nothing more than people who are using the tragedy of Chelsey to further their own anti-Islam and racist agenda, only creating divisions and stirring up hate against the many for actions of the few. To others they are the vanguard who hope to combat the culture which has lead to this, bringing to light the reality of the horrors of mass uncontrolled immigration in order to save their nation, their culture and ultimately British women from the barbarity of the foreign invaders.

It’s no surprise that there was much disgust for Labour among the crowd as they are seen as the ultimate traitors which have caused this. After all they were the ones which “opened the flood gates”, introducing a wave of mass uncontrolled immigration, while seemingly doing nothing to help the new arrivals integrate resulting in a supposed clash of cultures leading directly to the culture of politically correctness allowing the Islamic community a free pass, as police are afraid to be seen as racist in dealing with them, allowing the systematic sexual grooming and exploitation of British girls and women.

Those who attended certainly conformed to the stereotype you’d expect, predominantly working class males in their early 30’s to late 40’s, short hair, bald or somewhere between and poorly educated. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t to say they’re stupid or of low intelligence, but from hearing the surrounding conversations you could easily see that their vocabulary wasn’t quite like the university educated liberals which have come to dominate the political classes. Though the main bulk were males around a third of the attendees were women who fit into the female equivalent of the poorly educated working class stereotype.

One person who did not however was a man standing a few meters away from me on the other side of the police where I was standing. What caught my attention was the small blue and red Corbyn badge he was wearing, styled after the Obama Hope posters. This was quite the surprise I thought for someone to show their support for Labour, especially in a environment so hostile to him. Speaking to him after the event it was quite interesting to see what he had to say, speaking of what he felt the event represents, his fears and the reason why there was no counter-protest.

After around an hour the speeches were over, the crowd marched it way back towards Hendon and I made my way home.

While events like this bring public attention towards the plight of the victims it is unknown whether or not in the end they will help the victims cause, or simply be forgotten as just another rally of the far right. What I can say is it brings to the surface the anger and frustration many working class people feel towards the ineptitude of the police who are seen as politically cowards protecting foreigners over native Brits, callous politicians who have abandoned them and their anxieties over mass uncontrolled immigration which they see as bringing about untold change to their country.