Friday, 13 January 2012


This article is published in today's Leicester Mercury:
EDL in bid to march through Leicester city centre
Its previous protest degenerated into violence as people within a cordoned-off area reserved for the EDL pelted police officers with bricks, bottles and coins.
A number of fireworks and smoke bombs were also thrown from the 1,000-strong EDL section, while some of its followers broke through police lines to engage in running battles with local youths and officers.
The operation cost police – who put 2,000 officers on to the streets – and Leicester City Council an estimated £850,000. Shops, particularly those in Humberstone Gate East, lost trade because they closed and boarded up their properties for the day.
The EDL formally notified city authorities on Wednesday of its wish to stage a march and rally.
Police and officials at Leicester City Council held an urgent meeting yesterday to consider their response.
They can apply to the Home Office for a ban on the march – as they did on the previous occasion – but cannot prevent a static protest.City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he would be working closely with the police and community groups.
He said: "Our overriding aim is to ensure that the people of Leicester can go about their business safely. We will do everything we can to ensure that any demonstration passes off peacefully, with as little disruption to the life of the city as possible."
Martin Traynor, chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said a repeat of the disorder would harm the city's image for shoppers.
He said: "We would urge the authorities, including the Home Office, to decline this application."
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, described news of the group's decision to return to Leicester as "sad".
"Our door is always open and we would urge members of the EDL to reconsider their position and opt instead for dialogue with us," he said.
A police spokesman said senior officers were speaking to the group about its plans.
She said: "This isn't the first time Leicestershire police has had to deal with a large-scale demonstration.
"People know from past experience that we do have a commitment to make sure that our communities are well informed of developments."The scale of next month's protest was unclear yesterday.
Branches of the group in areas including Yorkshire, Berkshire, Greater Manchester and Nottingham have signalled their intention to take part.
A spokesman for Leicester Unite Against Fascism said it was monitoring developments and was ready to stage a counter protest, as it did in October 2010.

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