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Friday, 8 July 2011

English Defence League to march through Plymouth (UK)

Far-right street protest group the English Defence League is to march through Plymouth on Saturday as part of its campaign against what it calls the spread of Islamic extremism in Britain.

A counter-march has been organised by Unison, Unite Against Facism (UAF) and the Trades Union Council.

The EDL march will start in Exeter Street at 1pm, there will be speeches in the city centre at 2pm and a march back to Exeter Street at 3pm.

A statement on EDL Plymouth's Facebook posting for the event reads: "Above all the English Defence League will be attending Plymouth to hold a peaceful protest anyone causing trouble or making racist remarks will be removed from the demo and is likely to be arrested."

The counter-event will start with a rally at the Jigsaw Garden near Drake Circus at 12pm and there will be a march at 1pm.

Devon and Cornwall Police are planning to deploy officers in the city centre during the events.

Police are readying themselves for the potentially explosive rallies with ‘significant resources’ available.

But they added that protesters have said they would hold peaceful demonstrations.

“It’s important that we plan for every eventuality,” said Superintendent Craig Downham.

“We’re expecting large numbers of people in the city centre and Barbican areas and protesters have stated that it is their intention to hold a peaceful assembly, however, we will have significant police resources available to deal with any situation which presents itself, in a fair, proportionate and impartial way.”

He added that the police and local authority do not have powers to ban the protests and respect everyone’s democratic right to participate in peaceful protest.

But the Force is asking the community to be vigilant and inform the police immediately of any incidents.

“Devon and Cornwall Police is experienced in policing large events and our commitment is to protect the communities we serve and keep the peace, while facilitating peaceful and lawful protests,” he said.

“We want to reassure people that the city centre is still open for business. The two march routes have been negotiated in such a way that there’s less of a chance of disorder but we are there in large numbers should we need to use our powers to deal with anyone who is getting out of hand.”

The EDL have been leafleting around the city centre ahead of their rally with pamphlets saying “peaceful protest in Plymouth” and “defend our culture”.

UAF said that a unity statement has been signed by local politicians and trade unionists in opposition to the EDL protest.

To highlight this they are organising a multicultural We Are Plymouth demonstration.

Kevin Treweeks, equalities officer, city of Plymouth branch UNISON, added that the group is also planning an afternoon of multi-cultural entertainment following the rally.

The EDL formed in Luton in 2009 in response to protests by Islamic groups.

Events by EDL in other cities have sometimes seen a number of arrests, violent clashes with the UAF and other groups and criminal damage.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 demonstrators marched through Newcastle in May 2010 - from both the EDL and UAF.

Police say the event passed without incident.

EDL events are usually heavily policed.

This is Plymouth