A far-right group is hijacking the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting with an anti-Muslim march.
The march, organised by a group calling itself ‘Gays Against Shariah – UK’, claim to be campaigning for LGBT rights, and have capitalised on public outrage at the abuse of gay men in Chechnya.
The “Gays Against Shariah/Orlando Memorial Rally” is set to be held in Manchester on 10 June, and currently has 73 people either interested or attending.
The Facebook page for the event depicts shocking images of men being hanged, racist, Islamophobic content, and a video produced by gay Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos.
It has been organised by the founder of the EDL’s supposed LGBT wing, Tommy Cook, who goes by the name Tommy English on social media.
Despite Mr English, head of Gays Against Sharia, failing to secure necessary Public Liability insurance for the event, he still plans to go ahead with the march.
Mr English claims to have been in touch with EDL leader Tommy Robinson, who is supporting the march and says it should go ahead regardless of legality.
Far right figures, including Tommy Robinson, as well as Director of Sharia Watch UK Anne Marie Waters, are due to attend the Manchester march.
— Tommy English كافر (@EnglishTommy1) April 7, 2017
Event organisers have been attacking human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, making lewd accusations toward the activist and sending abusive Tweets, after he confronted organisers about the event.
Tatchell responded to the online posts by writing that it “shows I’ve rattled the far right”.
I'm DELIGHTED that I've been targeted Fri & Sat by fascists because I defend Muslims against their hate. It shows I've rattled the far right
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) April 15, 2017
The anti-Muslim march, masquerading as a genuine LGBT rights event, is not the first of its nature.
Last year an event in Stockton-on-Tees had billed itself as a Pride march in ‘Solidarity for the Orlando and Nice Attacks’, organised by a supposed LGBT group.
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It purported to have been set up by ‘LGBT Stockton on Tees’ – a group that had no identifiable contact information, or have held other LGBT events or actions.
An anti-extremism watchdog warned that it appears to be a ruse set by affiliates of prominent far-right extremist groups, including the English Defence League and Pegida UK, who are seeking to stir conflict.
Tell MAMA, an anti-extremism body set up with backing from the UK government that monitors anti-Muslim sentiment, warned that many of the organisers of the march were activists associated with the EDL, despite portraying the event as an innocent LGBT march.
It warned at the time: “Anyone coming across this page would rightly think that this silent march was something that would not only show solidarity against the senseless murder of so many people enjoying a night out in the US, it would also provide an opportunity for communities to come together.
“Nothing on this Facebook page would point to the motives behind such a page and where community issues are being appropriated as potential fronts to draw in people who may have some deeply questionable views.”
The event description reads: “Raising awareness of the widespread homophobia within Shariah Law and remembering the victim’s of the Orlando terrorist attack”.
The disturbing tactic is not new in itself.
Far-right groups including Britain First have previously been accused of exploiting a number of causes including animal welfare and women’s rights in order to recruit and accrue donations.
Anti-extremism bodies are concerned that LGBT rights could also be exploited to drive an extremist agenda, due to the groundswell of pro-LGBT sentiment online.