Police urged to ban far right rally in Birmingham
West Midlands Police have been urged to step in and ban a far right group from holding a march in Birmingham next month to avoid a repeat of the shocking scenes of violence witnessed earlier this month.
White nationalist organisation The English Defence League (EDL) and an associated group, Casuals United, are due to hold a rally against Islamic extremism in the city on September 5. Their first demonstration on August 8 ended with violence and bloodshed as supporters clashed with anti-racism campaigners.
One of those calling for a ban was Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob, who expected more street violence if EDL returned.
“When it comes to public safety we have every right to intervene,” she said. “But the ‘just stay away’ message we are hearing won’t wash with today’s Muslim youngsters who won’t put their heads down and carry on walking when they are subjected to racist taunts – they will react and fight back.”
Yesterday, those at a public meeting to discuss how the city should deal with the group’s next visit voted unanimously that the police should have the demonstration banned. West Midlands Police were urged to join forces with Birmingham City Council to apply to the Home Secretary for a banning order under the Public Order Act.
Luton is one of the places which has banned the EDL and other right-wing groups from holding marches for three months to avoid violence.
But a senior police officer said there were no current plans to do so as the EDL had a legitimate right to hold its march.
The Birmingham rally saw 35 people arrested, and running battles between protesters and police in riot gear in Victoria Square and New Street.
Chief Insp Adrian Atherley, head of West Midlands Police’s diversity and community cohesion unit, told yesterday’s meeting how both groups involved, the EDL and the Anti Facist League, acted within the law and the problem lay with their supporters.
“The people fighting were Brummies fighting each other. Why? Because they had been wound up and provoked by the groups who had left by then,” he said.
He said to obtain a ban they would have to jump through numerous legal and bureaucratic hoops. “We have considered it, but section 13 of the Public Order Act is very specific about marches,” he said. “In Birmingham the situation is very different to Luton where the Chief Constable felt he could not police that event. We did not lose control on August 8 , there were no major injuries or damage, and in terms of disorder there was no loss of control.”
He added: “Obtaining a section 13 ban requires the Chief Constable to go to the local authority to say in the event of a march I cannot police the streets and the local authority has to apply to the Home Secretary.”
But he said their decision was constantly reviewed and he would feed back comments to the Chief Constable.
Also at the meeting was Birmingham councillor Judy Foster, vice-chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority, who said she would be raising the issue of a ban during a meeting with the Chief Constable Chris Sims today.
Ban call for anti Muslim march
Birmingham politicians and community activists are calling on West Midlands police to ban next month’s planned protest against “militant Islam” in the city – following the example set by their counterparts in Luton.
The last demo organised by the English and Welsh League on August 8 erupted into violence when the far-right group encountered resistance from supporters of Unite Against Fascism, leading to 33 arrests.
Concerned Brummie Waseem Zaffar called a public meeting at the Council House yesterday to discuss an appropriate response to the EDL’s planned return to the city on September 5.
The gathering of around 80 people unanimously called on police to halt the protest on the grounds that it jeopardised public safety. It was noted that police in Luton have responded to a proposed EDL “event” in September by cancelling all marches in the town for three months.
Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley, of West Midlands Police Diversity and Community Cohesion Unit argued that the Birmingham demonstration couldn’t be treated in the same way. He said that while marches can be banned, the right to protest is enshrined in law.
Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who was at the meeting, was unimpressed, and reckons the law can be used "creatively" to impose a ban.
He said: “What happened on August 8 was unforgiveable. However, it seems quite clear that the EDL are a bunch of football hooligans coming to incite people to violence. They can’t be allowed to continue to do that. Once you get to the stage where people are going at something to deliberately wind other people up, that’s not on – and that’s their objective.”
He was backed by Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood who said: “ I agree with the sentiment of the meeting. These people came to deliberately incite, and it’s the taxpayers of the West Midlands and Birmingham who are having to pay for it. That money would be better spent on my constituents.”
Others present included Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, Dudley councillor Judy Foster, the Vice Chair of the Police Authority; likewise representatives of Unite Against Fascism, musician Apache Indian and Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg.
We’ve contacted The English Defence League and will publish their response when we have it.
The meeting also unanimously backed The Stirrer's Birmingham United campaign.
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