4 Oct 2010

Ban on Leicester marches

The Home Secretary has authorised a blanket ban on marches in Leicester on the day of a planned protest by the right-wing campaign group the English Defence League (EDL).

Home Secretary bans marches in Leicester on day of planned English Defence League protest (Reuters)

The EDL had organised a demonstration in Leicester this Saturday. In response, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) had planned a march there on the same day.

The local council applied for a ban on public safety grounds after discussions with Leicestershire Police.

The Home Office approved, but both groups could still hold static demonstrations.

What happened last time marches were banned? Find out from Channel 4 News in our August report on the protests in Bradford.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Having carefully balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected, the Home Secretary gave her consent to a Leicester City Council order banning any marches in the city on 9 October.

“Leicestershire Constabulary are committed to using their powers to ensure communities and properties are protected and we encourage all local people to work with the police to ensure community cohesion is not undermined by public disorder.”

A Leicestershire Police spokesman said the police had plans to deal with any non-marching protests. In August a similar blanket ban was enforced in Bradford after both groups organised marches there on the same day.

Static protests in Bradford by both EDL and UAF then went ahead, leading to some clashes with police and five arrests of EDL members.

Peaceful protests

Sheila Lock, Leicester City Council’s chief executive, said: “Even though the Home Secretary has given her consent, it does not prevent any static protests taking place, which are still lawful provided they remain peaceful, as neither we, nor the police, have legal powers to prevent them.”

Leicestershire Police said it would work to keep the protests “peaceful”.

A spokesman said: “Police officers will be stopping and searching people on the day as part of our plans to prevent disorder. If anyone commits a criminal offence or causes damage or disorder, they will be dealt with fairly but firmly.

“We do not want people to come into the city just to show opposition to what the protesters stand for. Let the police handle the events.”

Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon, police commander in the city, said: “We shall do everything possible to ensure that any protests on 9 October remain peaceful…To give reassurance there will be officers out and about in neighbourhoods during the week and if you have any concerns please do speak to them.”

Watch our exclusive interview with the leader of the English Defence League, who told Channel 4 News Northern Correspondent Nick Martin he is “not a racist” but is trying to “give a voice to the white community”.