Appeals ahead of EDL march
by Ciaran Fagan
Muslim community leaders have urged people to stay away from a protest against the English Defence League, (EDL), in Leicester this weekend.
The Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, (FMO), has written to its members, including mosques and various community groups, across the city and county ahead of Saturday’s planned event.
Leicester members of the EDL announced earlier this week that they intend to march from the Clock Tower to the war memorial in Victoria Park to lay a wreath in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby, the soldier who was murdered in London last week.
Leicester Unite Against Fascism is preparing a counter-protest.
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the FMO, said: “We are advising people it is better to stay away because of the risk of confrontation.
“It is right to pay respects to Drummer Lee Rigby but you have to ask whether it is necessary to march through the city centre.”
The EDL has said its members would not wear the group’s branded clothing, drink alcohol or chant throughout the march.
The march is also expected to only attract its local supporters.
Mr Nagdi also urged people not to react to rumours which may circulate on social networking sites or via text messages.
He said: “In many cases this information is not accurate. The police will be providing regular updates up to and including Saturday.”
Leicestershire Police said it was talking to both Leicester Unite Against Fascism and the EDL.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the force said: “We are expecting relatively small, low-key events, which will be peaceful and respectful in nature, and which will cause a minimum of disruption.
“We are not expecting people to travel from outside Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland for either of these events – there are similar events in neighbouring counties on Saturday.
“We will adopt a low-key policing style, with appropriate contingencies in place.
“We do not expect either event to disrupt normal business in the city centre, and encourage people planning to visit the city centre on Saturday to continue with those plans.
“We are talking with the organisers of both events to remind them of their obligations to ensure safe and peaceful events.”
The three city councillors who represent the Castle ward, which includes the city centre and Victoria Park, jointly condemned the EDL’s decision to march.
Patrick Kitterick, Lynn Moore and Neil Clayton said the EDL should not be allowed to march through the city.
Councillor Kitterick said: “The English Defence League could pay its tribute without marching through the city centre. There is absolutely no need for them to do this.
“Any counter demonstration needs to be peaceful and respectful.”
In a joint statement, the three councillors said: “As Castle Ward Councillors we wish to totally condemn and dissociate ourselves from the potential decision by senior officers of the police and city council to allow the EDL to march in Leicester on Saturday.
“We wish it to be made clear that no consultation took place with ourselves before this decision was made and if it had we would have asked for the march to be stopped.
“We call on anyone who wishes to pay tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby to do so as individuals and communities as thousands have done.
“The decision of the EDL to do this as a group and incorporate a march through the city shows that they are cynically exploiting the death of a young man for their own political aims.
“We call on senior officers of the police and council to ban the proposed march which has nothing to do with paying tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby and everything to do with dividing our city.”