Town Hall chiefs have expressed their disappointment after Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there was nothing he could do to stop the planned English Defence League rally in Bolton tomorrow.
Despite passionate pleas from the council and faith leaders, and face-to-face meetings with Mr Johnson and junior ministers, the current legislation gives no powers to ban an assembly unless it is on private property.
Civic leaders wanted to ban the protest because of the potential for violence to break out, as has happened at other EDL rallies across the country.
A letter from the Home Secretary states that the Government understands the concerns of the council, local communities and local businesses about the planned demonstration. In it, he explains that he has limited power to ban a march but not a static demonstration.
He says he is confident that the police will be able to use their range of powers to deal with anyone behaving in a violent, threatening or disorderly manner and condemns those who seek to divide and cause distrust between communities.
Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said: “We and the faith leaders have done everything within our power to prevent this demonstration due to the risk of violence. We are disappointed that the Home Secretary has been unable to ban this demonstration; however we understand that under current law, his powers are extremely limited.
“In the anticipation that a ban was unlikely, we have been working for some time with the police and local communities. We are confident that our excellent community relationships will not be harmed by this proposed demonstration and we urge local people not to be provoked into taking part in any counter-demonstration against EDL, which could potentially increase the risk of violence.”
While going through the process of trying to get the protest banned, council and police chiefs have highlighted concerns over gaps in legislation which will allow people who are subject to football banning orders — and would otherwise be banned from the town centre on Bolton Wanderers matchdays — to attend the rally.
The Bolton News