Police in Walsall have moved to reassure residents ahead of Saturday’s demonstration.
While police do not have the power to ban a static demonstration, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth, who will lead the policing operation, said: “West Midlands Police does not welcome this protest as we recognise that many people feel anxious about it being in the town. Like them, we believe that our resources would be better placed tackling the crimes which matter most to local people.”
It is believed that up to 800 officers will be on duty in the town to prevent clashes between the EDL and anti-racist groups who will be mounting a counter-demonstration featuring speeches from the town’s two MPs. The We Are Walsall group, which includes local trades union and multi-faith groups, told us, “Every time the EDL arrives in a town they expect locals to join them and it never happens because people are basically decent and want nothing to do with their policies. We aim to show that Walsall also rejects the divisiveness and hatred that the EDL seek to promote.”
ACC Forsyth reassured local people, “We will be staging a large-scale operation on the day to ensure that everyone who comes to the town centre, be it to take part in the protests, or to go about their day to day business, can do so in safety. Officers will be deployed throughout the town and any criminal or public order offences will be robustly dealt with. People should go about their normal business and not allow the protest to affect them or undermine Walsall’s reputation as a harmonious town with many different cultures living alongside each other.”
It is believed that the EDL will be confined around Leicester Street close to the town hall while the We Are Walsall demonstration will take place in Gallery Square.
A spokesman for the Saddlers Centre, Walsall’s biggest indoor shopping complex, said, “It’s business as usual. There are no plans to alter our opening hours.”
The EDL have given no reason why they have decided to protest in Walsall, a town in which they have previously shown no interest. It is expected that around 300 members of the group will be in attendance.