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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Home Secretary powerless to stop English Defence League protests in Midlands (UK)

THE Home Secretary has admitted he is powerless to stop extremists who have wreaked havoc across the Midlands demonstrating in the region during Easter.

The English Defence League (EDL) plans to hold a rally this Saturday in Dudley to protest against plans for a new £18 million mosque .
Previous EDL marches, including ones in Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham, have erupted into violent clashes between rival groups, including United Against Fascism (UAF).
Shoppers have been left horrified as yobs took over their city centres and several arrests were made by police.
And Alan Johnson has condemned extremists whose aim it is to divide communities
Yet he said there are no laws available to allow him to halt the incendiary group from demonstrating next Saturday.
“The police can in certain circumstance apply to me to stop a march, a demonstration that is physically moving along,” Mr Johnson told the Sunday Mercury.

“They have no such powers on static demonstrations if they are on public land.

“They have powers to ensure people can go about their daily business, powers to say make sure you are not in the middle of the road, but the power to stop it doesn’t exist.”

And he defended the right of all groups to demonstrate.
He said: “I deplore any attempt to cause disruption and disharmony in communities but because I disagree with the views of people demonstrating it doesn’t mean I should stop them.

“This is a democracy quite rightly the power of politicians to stop people demonstrating is limited.

“There are rules about what they can say, about inciting racial hatred, laws that we have introduced, but there is not a law that says because we don’t like their views we can ban their static demonstration.”

Dudley residents were warned to “prepare for the worst” when it was announced the EDL was planning to march in their town.
The council’s deputy leader Les Jones said: “It’s not particularly unexpected and so now we’ve just got to prepare for the worst case scenario.”
And council leaders from the three main political parties and UKIP signed a public notice calling on residents to stay away from the demonstration.
But supporters of the EDL, who are travelling from as far away as Bolton in Lancashire and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have been arranging their plans through the group’s website.

One from wolves15 reads: “Can’t wait, been waitin for ages for one close to home that i can go to.”

Dudley Council originally turned down plans by the Dudley Muslim Association to build the mosque in 2007, after a petition opposing the scheme raised 22,000 signatures.
But the association took their fight to a public inquiry and now a government planning inspector has ruled in its favour, granting its appeal against the council’s refusal of outline planning permission in July 2008.

The Sunday mercury