VIDEO: Ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson talks about why he quit extremist group

Tommy Robinson (Stephen Lennon) at an  EDL protest in 2012
Tommy Robinson (Stephen Lennon) at an EDL protest in 2012

Former leader of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson held a press conference last night to discuss his resignation from the group.

Along with deputy leader Kevin Carroll, Tommy, pictured, announced his departure yesterday, blaming the group’s extremism.

The pair will now work with Quilliam, a think tank that focuses on “counter-extremism”.

Quilliam claimed they have “facilitated the decapitation of the EDL” and called on all remaining members to “follow in his footsteps”. Tommy, real name Stephen Lennon, said: “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”

The Luton-based group formed in 2009 and has taken part in protests and marches across the country, which a Freedom of Information request submitted by the BBC in July this year revealed have cost more than £10m to police so far.

Bedfordshire Police recorded the highest cost of £2,447,172, followed by West Yorkshire Police at £1,911,088.

Tommy announced his departure via social networking site Twitter and a statement on the Quilliam website.

He later tweeted: “I’m overwhelmed by the messages of support from Edl followers. I’m surprised but extremely grateful. I gave my life to the Edl. #newera” and “The most difficult day of my life! I thank Edl supporters for their messages of support. For me this is a step forwards not backwards.”

Quilliam claimed they had “facilitated the decapitation of the EDL” and tweeted a photograph of the moment Tommy announced his departure.

A statement on the Quilliam website said the group are hoping to help Tommy invest his energy in countering extremism of all times, encouraging his “critique of Islamism” and his “concern with far-right extremism.”

Quilliam Chairman and Co-Founder Maajid Nawaz said: “As well as being a very positive change for the United Kingdom, this is a very proud moment for Quilliam. This represents not a change but a continuation for us, as challenging extremism of all kinds forms the basis of our work. We have been able to show that Britain stands together against extremism regardless of political views and hope to continue supporting Tommy and Kevin in their journey to counter Islamism and neo-Nazi extremism.”

Quilliam describe themselves as “the world’s first counter-extremism think tank” and say they stand for “religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.”

Luton Labour Party spokesperson, Francis Steer, said: “The decision of the two main leaders of the EDL to quit the far-right organisation I hope will result in the collapse of the operation. Like the National Front and the BNP fascist parties pop up, then thankfully become discredited but then often reinvent themselves. I hope the EDL will not be reappearing in another guise to spread their hatred and to try to cause division in our town.

“Luton will be a better place for the disappearance of the EDL and I hope that Mr Robinson / Lennon and his cousin Mr Carroll will also renounce violence and that they will turn away from their distructive anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Lloyd Denny, Chair of Luton in Harmony said: “Clearly it is early days, so we are unable to assess what impact this will have on the town. However, any actions that will help to bring harmony in Luton can only be a good thing.”

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