Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar vilified Muslims in hyperbolic terms at a London rally for an imprisoned far-right English activist.
Gosar, a Republican from Prescott, referred to the activist, Tommy Robinson, as an unjustly imprisoned "citizen journalist."
Speaking to a cheering crowd on Saturday, Gosar also condemned "disgusting and depraved individuals" from Muslim immigrant communities whom he said carry out widespread sexual abuse. "We know these men come from commonly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim backgrounds," Gosar said.
Robinson, who is 35, started an extremist, occasionally violent street movement that seeks to ban Muslim immigration and stop the construction of mosques in Britain.
At the end of Gosar's approximately eight-minute speech, the crowd chanted, "We want Tommy out!" and the congressman joined in. On stage at the rally, banners with Robinson's likeness portrayed him as a martyr, calling him a "Freedom Fighter" and "National Hero."
Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – founded the extremist English Defence League in 2009. The group became known for its roiling street protests, where balaclava-clad men often clashed with police. Robinson later denounced his own organization in 2013; he said the EDL had attracted too many Nazis and "morons."
He is currently serving a 13-month jail sentence for contempt of court after he filmed a Facebook Live video outside of a courthouse in May, violating a British law on trial publicity.
Since Robinson's arrest, Gosar has advocated for the U.S. to intervene on his behalf. In remarks to Congress on June 12, Gosar said, “His real crime is his refusal to agree to the government’s efforts to cover up crimes by Muslim gangs who are raping British girls, almost with impunity, and with little apparent regard by the British government.”
Gosar hit a similarly alarming anti-Muslim theme during his speech in London. His trip coincided with President Trump's visit to the U.K. last week, although it's unclear if the two were coordinated.
At the July 14 rally, Gosar said, “Tommy as a citizen journalist has had his freedoms taken away by the British justice system. And for what? Speaking out against great demonstrable injustices."
These injustices, Gosar suggested, included "rape and grooming gangs all around the country," a reference to a British media fixation on alleged sex trafficking by men from Muslim communities.
"I remember reading about it years ago, and the media used to try and shut people up and calling them racist or worse," Gosar said. But now these rumors have been "proven true," Gosar said.
"Thousands of young and vulnerable girls systematically targeted and raped and groomed by predominantly Asian men over decades. And very, very few people held to account," Gosar said. "Now, they say Asian. But we don’t," he added, a nod to British terminology for South Asian immigrants.
"Let’s tell the truth, and let us try telling that truth down at the wider communities from whence these men came, to rid them of the scourge of these disgusting and depraved individuals," Gosar said. "We know these men come from commonly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim backgrounds."
The crowd booed loudly.
A moment later, Gosar appeared to temper his statement. He added, "Now, I’m sure there are many in those communities who are just as disgusted as we are and embarrassed that these men have lived amongst them for so long."
Robinson was arrested at the Leeds Crown Court in northern England, where he was attempting to draw attention to a child sexual abuse trial. Before he was taken into custody, Robinson attempted to film the defendants, telling his audience that they were Muslim.
At a rally for Robinson last month, nine people were arrested, and pro-Robinson protesters were seen giving a Nazi salute, according to the Independent. Also appearing at the July 14 rally via a video message: Geert Wilders, a radical Dutch politician who is the head of the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim Party for Freedom.
According to LeedsLive, Robinson previously was convicted of contempt of court, and also has convictions for disobeying a court order, possession of drugs, fraud, and assault.
Gosar's office did not respond to requests for comment from Phoenix New Times.
The Arizona congressman's speech ended with a unabashed call to action, as he urged the British public to rescue the far-right activist.
"The ruling class in Britain appears fearful of the truth." Gosar said. "Never stop speaking the truth. Never stop working to bring Tommy home."