By Nadine White
Controversial activist Tommy Robinson called on supporters to cancel their TV licences as thousands gathered outside BBC headquarters for a demonstration.
The former English Defence League leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, held the protest to screen the film Panodrama, which he made in response to investigations by the BBC’s Panorama programme into him.
Supporters, some with England flags draped over their shoulders and others with “Free Tommy” written on their clothing, gathered from 11am on Saturday in the car park in Salford’s Media City.
Robinson arrived on stage at about 2.15pm to chants of “Oh Tommy, Tommy”, and told the crowd: “Evidence of a corrupt media is that not one single journalist in Britain has reported on Panodrama.”
About 300 metres away, an anti-fascist protest was staged, with hundreds holding signs with slogans including “Stand up to racism” and “Stop the fascist Tommy Robinson”.
There was a heavy police presence in the area, with a number of officers and police vans around both protests.
Temporary metal barriers were placed around the BBC buildings and most of the nearby restaurants and bars were closed while the demonstrations took place.
Referring to his court case last year, Robinson, who was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court but freed on appeal, said the Attorney General is still considering three charges against him.
He said: “Know this, Attorney General, I don’t even know what your name is, know this – I dare you to charge me again because I just want to see the scenes outside the courts.”
The documentary, which lasted about an hour, showed former aide to Robinson Lucy Brown secretly filming a meeting she had with BBC investigative journalist John Sweeney.
It also showed Robinson, 35, confronting Sweeney during a planned interview for the programme.
The film ended with him showing supporters how to cancel their TV licences if they are “fed up with paying for their propaganda”.
He told the crowd: “We are constantly battling a media that lie.”
Ukip leader Gerard Batten also took to the stage in support of Robinson, and he urged protesters to join his political party.
He claimed the BBC regards Robinson as a threat to the establishment, and said: “He speaks up for things that are right, he tells the truth and he can mobilise lots of people like you, and that’s what they fear.”
In Manchester for Tommy Robinson’s film ‘Panodrama’. Undercover footage shows how the BBC tried to set him up for their ‘Tommy Takedown’ programme. Instead they walked into a trap of their own making. Biased Broadcasting Corp shown up for what it now is. Scrap the license fee! pic.twitter.com/Goia0KhkYE
— Gerard Batten MEP (@GerardBattenMEP) February 23, 2019
The demonstration also included video clips from Robinson’s wedding day accompanied by Take That song Greatest Day, which he said was played as a tribute to his wife, whose face was pixelated in the film.
Canadian musician Kelly Day gave two performances of a version of Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, with the lyrics changed to reflect the story of Robinson’s court case and a chorus of “how they rule you”.
After the documentary was screened, a video clip, which was reported earlier this month, showing Robinson declaring himself “king of the whole Islam race” was played on the big screen.
He told the crowd: “F*** you fake news.”
The demonstration ended with the crowd of Robinson supporters singing along to Neil Diamond song Sweet Caroline.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “BBC Panorama is investigating Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
“The BBC strongly rejects any suggestion that our journalism is ‘faked’ or biased. Any programme we broadcast will adhere to the BBC’s strict editorial guidelines.
“Some of the footage which has been released was recorded without our knowledge during this investigation and John Sweeney made some offensive and inappropriate remarks, for which he apologises.
“BBC Panorama’s investigation will continue.”