Following last month’s disturbances in Birmingham during an English Defence League demo, when more than 90 people were arrested, The Stirrer reckons there are still some unanswered questions for West Midlands Police.
We’re raising these issues not as an exercise in “police bashing” or because we want to rake over the embers of an unhappy day in the city’s history. Rather, we hope that lessons can be learnt so that similar incidents aren’t repeated in future.
We’re voicing concerns raised by councillors, concerned citizens and community groups, and in a spirit of openness we guarantee to publish WMP's response in in full.
Here are some key issues arising from the events of September 5 which we think still need addressing.
1) Was it really impossible to ban the demo?
This was frequent refrain from both West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Equalities Alan Rudge. The leader of the opposition city’s Labour group Sir Albert Bore disagrees saying that in 2001, the government used what he admits were “draconian” powers to ban the National Front holding a rally in Stechford. Bore argues that the same legislation could have been enforced against the EDL.
2) Why were the EDL allowed to reach Victoria Square?
The EDL meeting point in Broad Street was well advertised so how were their supporters able to slip away en masse to Victoria Square and New Street where mayhem ensued? Despite the use of spotters, CCTV etc there was no police presence to greet them.
3) Why did West Midlands Police decide to issue Fixed Penalty Notices against EDL members instead of prosecuting them?
The EDL were escorted out of the city on buses, and a number of their supporters were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices. Wouldn’t formal prosecution have been a more effective long-term deterrent?
4) Has there been any formal report from the community observer or the representative of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary who were present in the control room?
What did these independent observers make of the policing operation?
5) Why did West Midlands Police need support from across the region and even from the Met?
Given that there were no major football matches in the region on that day, couldn’t it the operation have been handled from local resources?
6) Response to the prospect of a further EDL visit to Alum Rock?
Although the EDL vowed not to return to Birmingham, there were widespread rumours that they (or an allied grouo) were planning a demo in Alum Rock recently. Were West Midlands Police aware of this, and if so, how did they respond to fears in the community?
We look forward to the WMP response.