A Harrow MP and former policing minister will ask the Home Secretary to ban an anti-Islam protest.
Tony McNulty (Lab/Harrow East) announced today he will hold an informal meeting with Alan Johnson this week to discuss possible routes to stopping a rally by Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE). The protest is due to be held on December 13 outside Harrow Central Mosque, and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) intends to hold a counter demonstration.
But the move has sparked fears there will be violent scenes similar to those of SIOE's first Harrow rally, a month ago today, when members were met by angry crowds seeking to defend the religious institution.
The police say there are no powers to ban “static protests” that do not involve a march, and so do not believe the Christmas rally can be prevented.
Mr McNulty said: “The one different thing this time around, if they come again, is the experience of last time and the experience of last time shows very clearly that there will be the potential for serious disorder.”
After an initial meeting in the next seven days he plans further, more formal discussions, with Mr Johnson in the coming weeks. UAF clashed with the far right English Defence League (EDL) in Manchester yesterday, leading to more than 40 arrests. Ten people were arrested at a demonstration outside Harrow Central Mosque on September 11, including protest organiser Stephen Gash, who was detained to prevent a breach of the peace.
Mr McNutly's comments came as the borough's politicians gathered to show unity a month on from the rally with a unity walk starting at Holy Trinity Church, in High Street Wealdstone. A crowd helped by police cadets and led by Harrow mayor Councillor Eric Silver walked the borough's war memorial outside Harrow Civic Centre, in Station Road.
Cllr Silver said: “We've had people come to this borough to try to break it up. We live together, we work together and we play together.”
All three parties on Harrow Council expressed solidarity with the mosque in the run up to and during the September protest and re-stated their support today.
Councillor David Ashton, leader of the council and Tory group, said: “We still hope it won't happen but it's been threatened. It's the last thing we want to see in Harrow.”
Councillor Paul Scott (Lib Dem/Harrow Weald) was sceptical of claims by SIOE that it could raise 2,000 supporters, a figure that would dwarf its turn out in September. He said: “They haven't done it thus far. I'm just concerned that we shouldn't allow a very small group of people to hold us to ransom with exaggerations about what they can do.”
Councillor Bill Stephenson, leader of the Labour Group, backed Mr McNulty's calls for the demonstration to be banned. He said: “I think we have to take pro-active action and Tony's going to be approaching the Home Secretary. You can't let a small group of people go round the country causing mayhem. We don't want that in Harrow. There must be some way we can sort this out and prevent it because the potential for violence is there and if some people turn up next time someone could get seriously hurt. I know Mr Johnson's made some statements and we now want less talk and more action. We remain totally united in Harrow.”