Manchester council is to ask the Home Secretary to block a planned city-centre rally by a right-wing group.
The English Defence League claims only to oppose 'militant Islam' - but previous events have seen skinheads making Nazi salutes, and violent clashes with anti-fascist protestors. An EDL rally in Birmingham earlier this year ended with 90 people arrested during a busy shopping Saturday. Gangs hurled bottles at each other and pelted riot police with bricks. Now the EDL are planning to come to Manchester on Saturday, October 10.
And the city council, which is powerless to stop the event, is to appeal to Alan Johnson to intervene. Town hall bosses are writing to the Home Secretary calling on him to use whatever powers are necessary to block the event. They believe there is a serious risk of violence - and that the event will cause offence to moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Their calls are being backed by church leaders and city-centre traders.
Jim Battle, deputy council leader, said: "Manchester has a long and rich tradition of protest and radicalism. We are incredibly proud of that history and to this day people regularly make their voice heard in demonstrations in the city. But we are also a welcoming and tolerant city. Wherever the so-called English Defence League have gone there has been violence and disruption to ordinary people who just want to go about their business.
"These people do not have a legitimate cause - they merely wish to vilify, insult, intimidate and provoke one section of our community. That isn't protest or legitimate democratic debate and it certainly is not welcome in Manchester. Manchester does not want the EDL, and we stand united against their poisonous, disruptive and unbritish outlook and actions."
Kate Harrison, chief executive of Cityco, which represents city traders, said: "Cityco works very hard with the council to facilitate freedom of speech by allowing the use of our public squares. However, there needs to be a balance and we need to consider the needs of visitors to the city and the businesses that trade here. We are concerned about recent events in Birmingham and want to ensure Manchester is a safe and pleasant place to visit."
The Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, said: "Manchester Cathedral is currently hosting an exhibition commemorating Anne Frank, who, as a Jewish victim of the Holocaust experienced prejudice and racial hatred. The exhibition tackles contemporary issues such as bullying, racism and intolerance head on and we are proud to demonstrate our support for the values of tolerance and inclusion of which Manchester is rightly proud. The English Defence League's plans to march in Manchester are a direct threat to those values and we stand in solidarity with those who reject their agenda of division."
Manchester Evening News