Monday, 6 February 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
A job well done
Police have been widely praised for their handling of Saturday's English Defence League march and the counter protest by Unite Against Fascism.
Senior officers have confirmed there were no arrests linked to the two marches and – despite several brief skirmishes – the day had passed without a repeat of the violence which broke out when the EDL visited the city in October 2010.
However, traders said their takings would be hit hard as many shoppers stayed away.
Police and city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said their decision to allocate separate routes to both groups in an attempt to reduce opportunities for confrontation had been vindicated.
Sir Peter, who has faced criticism for not seeking to ban the EDL march, said: "Allowing the march to go ahead was clearly the right call. When the EDL came to Leicester in 2010, the city centre was effectively shut down as a result.
"This time around there has been far less disruption, and the entire march has been kept under tight control by the police.
"I'm enormously impressed by how this was handled.
"Of course, having the EDL march through our city wasn't desirable, and of course we didn't want it, but my biggest concern was making sure that the people of the city faced the least disruption possible, and were kept safe."
About 700 people took part in the EDL's march, while 200 joined Leicester Unite Against Fascism on its route, according to police.However, both groups immediately disputed these figures – with the EDL claiming it had brought more than 1,000 supporters and Leicester Unite Against Fascism saying its protest was supported by more than 700 – mostly local – people.
Suleman Nagdi, of the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, said the police and mayor had handled the protests well. Mr Nagdi, who said faith leaders had also contributed to the effort to ensure the marches passed without serious incident, said: "The collective effort of all of us in helping to minimise disruption to our great city showed once again the strength of our unity in Leicester."
City councillor Manjula Sood, chairwoman of the Leicester Council of Faiths, said: "The protest caused a lot of anxiety and worry, but the police worked hard assuring everyone they would be strict with the EDL."The police worked very well with the city's communities, especially the Muslim community that was the target of the protest.
"There wasn't trouble and I think that sent a strong message that Leicester will always be united and stand in solidarity."
The police could have applied to the Home Office for an order which would have outlawed the EDL march, but could not have prevented a 'static' protest of the sort it staged when it last came to Leicester.
Senior officers, who had put more than 2,000 police on to the streets for the day, said their tactic of containing marchers at all times had paid off.
Chief constable Simon Cole said: "The success of the operation is due to a number of factors, not least the support from the city council and the co-operation of the Leicester public.
"The planning for this day began just two weeks ago with many officers and staff working extremely long hours working out the logistics, meeting with other force colleagues, partners, businesses and community leaders to name but a few."

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