Police from all over the country will be drafted into the multicultural town of Luton on Saturday amid fears of clashes between a far-right group and anti-fascist supporters.
Bedfordshire Police is mounting one of its biggest ever operations in a bid to prevent violence when the English Defence League (EDL), which protests against "radical Islam," stages a march through the town, home to a large Muslim community.
Previous EDL demonstrations have led to violence and Saturday's demonstration will see it bringing in supporters from across Britain while members of anti-jihad groups from Holland, Norway, France and Sweden are also due to attend. Some 2,000 officers will be on duty and transport police will be out in force on rail routes into the town, about 35 miles north of London.
"Luton will look very different to normal," said Chief Superintendent Mike Colbourne, Luton's police commander, who said the operation would cost the force some 800,000 pounds. "But the officers, their dogs and horses are all there with the same purpose -- to look after the town."
Luton has particular resonance for the EDL. The organisation was formed after a group of radical Muslims shouted slogans at British soldiers, calling for them to "burn in Hell," during a homecoming parade in the town in 2009.
The Islamist suicide bombers responsible for the deadly 2005 attacks on London met at the town's rail station beforehand, and locals have been involved in a number of counter-terrorism investigations. Taymour Abdulwahab, who carried out a suicide attack in Stockholm in December, had studied at the local university.
"We're fed up, we are the people living in these towns and cities," said the EDL's founder and leader 26-year-old Steven Lennon, who goes by the name of "Tommy Robinson" after a infamous football hooligan. "We are the people crossing paths with terrorists, we are the people who have to live next door to them, our kids have to go to school with them," he told Reuters.
"We ... are trying to get the politicians to listen to us, because at the minute they are just bowing to Islam and appeasing Islam, everywhere, all over, they are too scared to even talk about Islam."
In the town's high street, where "Luton in Harmony" banners fly, locals are worried. A counter-demonstration by the Unite Against Fascism group, which is also bringing in supporters, will be staged on Saturday at the opposite end of the street and police fear there may also be unofficial protests by local Muslims.
"Sometimes it goes beyond the limit. Some people take it to the next level, so yeah, it does make me worried. Big time," said young mother Afiah Husnain as she pushed her baby around the predominantly Muslim area of Bury Park.
About a sixth of Luton's 185,000 population is Muslim and the Imam of the Central Luton Mosque, Syed Gulzar Bukhari, has been handing out leaflets advising his community not to react.
"The EDL can not be defeated if a few Muslim hot-heads are allowed to represent the whole Muslim community," it reads.
It's not just Muslims who are worried.
"We don't want them, we don't want them here. I mean they might have something they believe in but I don't think we need it. Luton's getting a bad image," said one elderly woman who did not want to be identified.
Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Council, said the protests would effectively shut down the town.
"It's going top be a challenging day and I'm sure that many people, including myself, would rather this event was not coming to Luton," she said.
Whatever the outcome on Saturday, the EDL are promising more demonstrations and the evolution of an anti-Islamist political force.
"People say we are football hooligans. No, we are not football hooligans, but we are not backing down at the same time," Lennon said. "You are not beating us into submission, you are not beating us into silence, we will keep on coming."