(Demonstrators from the far-right English Defence League (EDL) clash with police officers during a march in Leicester, central England, February 4, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Staples)

The leader of a British anti-Islamist group said on Friday his populist protest movement, which critics say represents a new far right in Britain, would form a political party in May. Stephen Lennon, head of the English Defence League (EDL), said the three-year-old grassroots group wanted to move on from holding street demonstrations to contesting elections.

“The British political anti-Islamist party will be launched in May at our Luton demonstration,” Lennon told Reuters, saying the new body would be called the Freedom Party. “At the Luton demonstration, the whole country will hear an anti-Islamist political party that gives everyone an option in a non-racist way – the opposite to the British National Party.”

The EDL was formed in response to a protest by a small group of radical Muslims who shouted slogans at British soldiers during a homecoming parade in Luton, to the north of London.

While still a small organisation, as many as 12,000 people have attended the numerous marches and demonstrations the EDL has staged across England since then. More than 31,000 people have given its Facebook website their backing.