After Woolwich: Are we facing the rise of the EDL?

There were widespread fears about a spike in far-right activity today, amid more evidence of an English Defence League (EDL) membership drive in the wake of the Woolwich murder.

There has been a reported surge in anti-Muslim abuse and the far-right group's Facebook page has surged in popularity.

The EDL called a new protest outside of Downing Street for next Monday, while the British National Party (BNP) plan to hold a demonstration in Woolwich on June 1st.

Political leaders have been trying to calm the situation, with David Cameron stressing that the Woolwich attack was a "perversion" of Islam and paying tribute to the contribution the Muslim community makes to the country.

Speaking this morning, communities secretary Eric Pickles said: "The very sensible thing that I think has come out of this is the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Muslim organisations have condemned this.

"It's been unequivocal in the condemnation and those that sought to use this to divide us – it's actually been a catalyst to bring the communities together."

But former home secretary David Blunkett warned of a "very nasty and angry politics" fermenting in Britain, which would require careful management to make sure "something much more dangerous is avoided".

The Tell Mama hotline, which records Islamophobic crime through direct reports and social media and news scanning, said it logged 38 incidents on Wednesday night – up from an average of two or three a day – with another spike expected when numbers are collected for yesterday.

A man in his forties was charged with two counts of possession of offensive weapons and affray over an attack on an Islamic centre in Essex this morning.

In Gillingham, Kent, another man was held on a racially aggravated charge for allegedly smashing a window and a bookcase at a mosque.

There were at least seven incidents of Muslims being abused in the street, as well as graffiti attacks on mosques in Bolton and threats to other religious centres.

"What we are seeing is concerted action from individuals across the country," Tell Mama co-ordinator Fiyaz Mughal told the Guardian.

"We are really concerned. When you see a wider picture of resentment and retribution, this is telling us it's an increasing problem.

"Something is moving in a very disturbing direction."

Yesterday saw the Metropolitan police put 1,200 officers on the street with extra deployment around mosques.

The EDL's Facebook page saw a surge in support since the attack, with the number of people 'liking' it jumping fourfold to 80,000.

"We're at war," EDL leader Tommy Robinson said in a YouTube clip posted late yesterday.

"We're sleepwalking into oblivion, our whole entire race."

The group is planning regular marches, starting with one in Newcastle and then another in London.

The strategy is a tried-and-tested one for far-right groups. While the marches accomplish no political change, they provide a good opportunity for the group to identify potential new recruits.

US data suggests the levels of hate crime rise for two weeks after an attack and then drop down again, but in that period EDL can easily bolster its membership by regular marches and increased media attention.

In other news, two men have been arrested for positing offensive comments about the murder of the British soldier on Twitter.

A complaint was made to Avon and Somerset police about the remarks and a 23-year-old and 22-year-old were arrested in Bristol.