An English Defence League protest will take place in Blackburn next month
The right-wing group said it planned to hold a three-and-a-half hour ‘peaceful’ demonstration on Saturday, April 2. Lancashire Police is preparing for more than 1,000 supporters in the town centre. At the same time, Blackburn & Darwen United Against Racism has called a counter-protest. It is supported by Blackburn Trades Council, Blackburn College Student Union, Unite Against Fascism and Youth On A Mission.
Final negotiations were taking place yesterday between police and council chiefs over a suitable location. The key issue is finding somewhere for a large-scale demonstration to take place safely.
Similar events in Bolton, Preston and Rochdale have taken place in the past. The Preston demo in November led to 14 arrests but there was no major disorder.
A police spokesman said: “We are aware that the English Defence League may wish to hold an event in Blackburn on Saturday, April 2. The right to peacefully protest is a fundamental democratic right and we have a duty to facilitate that. At present nothing has been formally agreed or approved and we will work to ensure that these events pass off peacefully and with as little disruption as possible, if they go ahead. We will, of course, be working very closely with Blackburn with Darwen Council and other partner agencies throughout.”
According to the main EDL website and its Facebook page, which has 81,000 members, the Blackburn protest will run from 1pm until 4.30pm on Saturday, April 2. Some promotional material on the internet has mentioned the case of Amy Houston, who died after being knocked down by a failed asylum seeker.
Former Darwen councillor Michael Johnson, 48, who has spoken at previous EDL demos, said: “I’ve spoken to Paul (Amy’s dad) and he doesn’t want people using his situation for political gain.”
In recent months, the EDL has held several protests outside the KFC in Blackburn, which has been trialling a halal menu.