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Saturday, 28 August 2010

'Show restraint in face of demonstrations by EDL and UAF' (UK)

Political, community and religious leaders across the city are urging the people of Bradford to show restraint in the face of mass demonstrations by far-right and left-wing protesters.

Thousands of supporters from the right-wing English Defence League (EDL) and the anti-fascist UAF are expected to descend on the city centre tomorrow, with a heavy police presence.

In a clear show of unity, politicians of all parties are calling for responsible Bradfordians to keep away from the city centre.

Imams from leading mosques across the district have also been urged to promote a message of “peace and harmony” – and encourage people to stay away from trouble hot spots – at prayers tonight.

Their calls for peace come amid fears that the demonstrators could provoke a violent reaction to rival the devastating riots in 2001.

Paul Meszaros, of Bradford Together, said: “Thousands of people in a very short time signed a petition to stop the march of hate because there is a strong feeling across the city – from old and young, white people and Asian people – that Bradford needs to go forward.

“We are starting to get out of the doom and gloom of the 2001 riots and we need to be united, not set back nine years.”

MPs from across Bradford district have stressed the need for calm.

Bradford East Lib Dem MP David Ward said: “I would ask every single individual to think deeply about what they want for their future and the future of their children.

“I want to see a more positive Bradford not one that takes us back to the days we want to forget about.”

Mr Ward said he would be “nowhere near” the city centre demonstrations and instead would be at Infirmary Fields, Manningham, raising money for the Pakistan floods and the Bradford Burns Unit appeals.

“Anybody who is not from Bradford should not come to Bradford,” he said. “This includes the EDL and other groups who may take part in what may be an aggressive demonstration.

“We don’t need people from outside Bradford here. They should just stay away.

“We have got to think about what dream we want for Bradford, one which does not rely on hatred and division,” he said.

Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe said: “I think that everybody, so far, has acted responsibly and I would want that to carry on tomorrow.

“We need people to be calm and responsible and not let a relatively small number of people have an influence on our city.”

Shipley MP Philip Davies called for people to heed the advice of West Yorkshire Police. He said: “I would rather everybody shunned any demonstration by the EDL and the rent-a-mob opposition demonstration because the city can well do without any of them. The police know how best to manage these events and I would certainly urge people to follow their advice and stay out of the city.”

A spokesman for Bradford West MP Marsha Singh’s office added: “The message to outside agitators is ‘stay away. You are not welcome here’.”

Bradford Council secured a blanket ban on the EDL and UAF marching through the city earlier this month. The ban was sanctioned by Home Secretary, Theresa May, and backed by West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, Sir Norman Bettison.

Bradford Council Executive Labour party member Councillor Imran Hussain, said: “There is a consensus among elected members in Bradford who represent inner city wards that we have full confidence in the police. We support them and believe they will be able to contain the protests by the UAF and the EDL.

”We will condemn any acts of violence by anybody in the city centre.”

Anne Hawkesworth, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said: “The best way to negate the demonstration and counter demonstrations is to keep away from the city centre.

“Because of the serious effect it could have on people’s businesses and livelihoods, it is not a comedy, it is very sad.”

Bradford Council for Mosques has sent guidance emphasising “key messages” for young Muslim people and their parents.

It includes advice not to react to racist provocation and to beware of “false rumours” floated by the EDL or others, designed to incite violence.

In a direct message to young Muslim people, Ishtiaq Ahmed, a spokesman for Bradford Council for Mosques, said: “Do not take the law into your own hands and support the police to deal with any act of lawlessness and provocation.

“Mosques are being encouraged to organise alternative events to constructively engage people away from the potential spots of trouble.”

The Telegraph and Argus