Police, council and religious leaders speak ahead of Saturday’s English Defence League gathering in Birmingham.
Politicians and community leaders have sent a firm message to extremists ahead of Saturday’s planned English Defence League rally in Birmingham city centre. Police chiefs have also emphasised that bad behaviour will not be tolerated by rival groups of demonstrators. Up to 500 EDL protestors are expected at a static protest in Centenary Square while a similar number from anti-racist groups will be holding a simultaneous counter-demonstration in Chamberlain Square.
In a message released today, the leaders of the main parties on Birmingham city council together with heads of the city’s faith groups state that there is no place in the city for preachers of hatred and division, and emphasised their commitment to harmony. They said: “This is a city of many communities, nationalities and creeds – all living and working side by side. To any individual or organisation promoting messages of hate and intolerance, our collective response as a city is very clear: You will not create divisions and you will not destroy our unity.”
Previous EDL demonstrations in the city centre and elsewhere have led to clashes between rival demonstrators and police, with 65 members of the far-right group being arrested following outbreaks of violence in Walsall last September. Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe, in charge of policing Saturday’s event, assured local people that the city centre will carry on as normal. “We will have more than 1,000 officers on duty to ensure that the people who live, work, shop or visit Birmingham feel reassured and can go about their daily business in safety. The force is being supported by colleagues from the region and other forces from across the country. However she emphasised, “If there is violent behaviour at either demonstration, or indeed in the wider community, it will be dealt with swiftly and robustly. We will identify and bring to justice anyone who is behaving in a criminal or anti-social manner – just as we have done when violence has broken out at previous protests.”