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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Calls to ban far-right parade in Newcastle

FAR-RIGHT group the English Defence League are planning a march through Newcastle, sparking counter protests.

The EDL, which claims to protest against Muslim extremism, will march from the city’s Central Station to the Bigg Market, on Saturday, May 29.

Members of anti-fascist groups and trade unions are planning counter demonstrations for the same day.

Some councillors have called for the EDL’s parade to be banned.
But only the Home Secretary can order a ban of a political march if there are concerns over the police’s ability to control it.

Northumbria Police has said it will have no problem. A spokeswoman said: “This is a busy bank holiday weekend with many events taking place in Newcastle and across the force area. We have drawn up plans to ensure we will have the appropriate resources at our disposal at all times.

“The force has a long history of dealing with large-scale events from music festivals and party conferences through to high-profile football matches. A wide range of specialist and uniformed officers will be working on the day who are well-versed in this type of policing operation.”

The TUC, North East Against Racism and Unite Against Fascism are all staging protests.

Newcastle City Council’s deputy leader Coun David Faulkner said: “Philosophically I’m uncomfortable about banning these marches, even though I find them very unpleasant.

“My view is that people have a right to protest in a democracy, however unsavoury and repulsive their views may be to others.”
The EDL calls itself a “counter-jihad movement” and denies being a racist group. But its marches around the UK have been dogged by counter-protests.

Anti-fascists and EDL members were involved in violent clashes during a demo in Bolton in March.

Steve Simmons of the EDL said: “We work closely with the police and do not allow bad behaviour among members.”
But Coun Dipu Ahad, Labour member in Elswick, said: “Do we really want this kind of thing in our city? Relationships between communities in Newcastle are very good and harmonious and this can only stir up hatred.
“It’s all very well saying a demonstration will be peaceful, but it only takes a few individuals to cause trouble and you have a riot.

“Newcastle is billed as a City of Peace, so how can this march be allowed to threaten that?

“I’ve had many emails and phone calls from the Muslim community and they are extremely worried. This march can only serve to break up bonds built up and increase tension.”

Chronicle Live