The English Defence League has been handing out flyers in Cambridge to drum up support for its march through the city.
Tensions are heightening before the march by the controversial group and a counter protest on Saturday. Members of the EDL have been handing out flyers outside city pubs and shops. Posters have also been put up in Mill Road shop windows by counter-protesters. The group is marching in protest at the building of a mosque in Mill Road. The march will clash with the city’s Big Weekend celebrations.
Dave Utting, landlord of The Emperor pub – which will be closed during the march – said: “A group of EDL supporters were in the pub but they weren’t causing any trouble. They were a bit vocal but I had no reason to stop serving them. They handed out flyers outside the pub.”
EDL flyers were also evident near a street party in Gwydir Street, off Mill Road, which was being held to “bring the local community together”. Cllr Kevin Blencowe, who represents Petersfield, said: “I should imagine the residents at the street party would not have welcomed them. This was a party on a nice sunny Saturday and not the time for political opportunism.”
Rebecca Harris, who lives off Mill Road, found the flyers. She said: “I picked up three EDL flyers in Gwydir Street after the party and binned them. It’s starting to feel tense in the run-up to the march. I think I’ll give it a wide berth.”
Jethro Scotcher-Littlechild, who runs the Cambridge Blue pub, said: “If we had seen any of them giving out flyers, we would have stamped it out.”
Aston Perrin, a member of the EDL, believes there is strong support for the group in Cambridge. The student teacher from Bedford said: “There’s a reasonably-sized Cambridge division who travel to demos and I imagine the ‘silent support’ is huge, as it appears to be nationwide, with many national polls showing that over 50 per cent of the country would support groups such as ours if it wasn’t for the violent image. It’s important for the counter demonstrators to aggravate us and start the violence, as usually happens, because the press will always make it out to be the fault of the EDL.”
Campaigners say support has “snowballed” for the Unite Against Fascism counter-protest, which held a meeting last night in the Unitarian Church Hall, Emmanuel Street. Speaker Richard Howitt MEP said: “The EDL want to stir up hatred. They are trying to artificially create tension around the moving of a mosque and will be importing their members from London and the Midlands.”