August 22, 2009
Posted by Antifascist
The English Defence League, which has been involved in violent clashes in Birmingham and Luton this year, had planned to hold a series of demonstrations against "Islamic extremism" over the coming weeks.
Anti-racism campaigners said the events were intended to whip up tension and more than 14,000 people had written to Alan Johnson, the home secretary, demanding action. Today police confirmed the Home Office had granted a banning order.
Nick Lowles of the Hope not Hate campaign said: "Our voices have been heard. Luton is a safer place because of it. This is just further proof of what we can achieve when we get organised."
Luton has seen a number of violent protests this year. In March a small group of Muslims staged a demonstration during a homecoming parade for soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment. Tonight Bedfordshire police charged seven men in connection with the incident. They will appear at Luton magistrates court on 16 September.
The March demonstration was followed by counter-demonstrations which led to Asian businesses and residents being attacked. In Birmingham this month members of the English Defence League and linked group Casuals United clashed with anti-racism campaigners, resulting in 34 arrests and one injury.
Bedfordshire police today said there had been growing concern about planned demonstrations by rightwing groups that had prompted a "robust unified response" by the police and the council. Chief Superintendent Andy Frost, divisional commander for Luton police, said: "The risk the proposed marches pose to public safety has left us with no alternative but to apply for a banning order."
Weyman Bennett, the joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, welcomed the ban. "What we have proved is that where we, as a multiracial group, organise and stand up the EDL can be defeated."
The league denies it is racist, claiming it would march "alongside Muslims and Jews who are against militant Islam".
The announcement of the ban came as a man and a woman were charged under the Data Protection Act after a British National party (BNP) membership list was leaked on to the internet. Dyfed-Powys police said the man, aged 27, and woman, 30, were due to appear at Nottingham magistrates court on 1 September. The BNP called for a police investigation last November after the details of 10,000 of its members were published online.