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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Have e-mail say on protest by English Defence League [from: this is Leicestershire]

- By Ciaran Fagan, social affairs correspondent

People are being asked how they feel about a protest in Leicester by the controversial English Defence League.

Leicester City Council and city police have created an e-mail address for people to have their say on the protest, which is expected to take place on Saturday, October 9.

The league, which says it is opposed to Islamic extremism, has yet to declare what kind of demonstration it wants to stage – it could be a march through the city or a static protest at a fixed location.

Rival groups have said they will hold a counter-demonstration at the same time.

Critics say league protests invariably turn violent and senior officers are now planning for the event on the understanding that up to 3,000 activists and a similar number of counter-demonstrators could take part.

The Leicester Mercury understands at least 1,000 police officers – including some drafted in from up to 10 other forces – will be on duty on the day.

Sheila Lock, chief executive of the city council, said the authority was seeking the views of a broad spectrum of people.

The results of the consultation will guide the council, which has stressed it is not a vote on whether the protest will go ahead or not.

Council officials and senior police officers are also holding a series of meetings with community leaders.

Ms Lock said: "It is important that everyone has the opportunity to have their say.

"I understand some people may not want to come forward directly and we realise we won't be able to meet with everyone face-to-face.

"To ensure that we capture the views of as many people as possible, we have set up an e-mail address and would encourage people to use it."

If the group wishes to march through the city, it must formally apply for permission at least six days beforehand.

The city council and police could apply to the Home Office for permission to ban a march if there is evidence of a serious risk to public order.

Static demonstrations cannot be outlawed, but controls can be imposed.

Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon, who is in charge of policing in the city, said: "Representatives from both Leicestershire Constabulary and Leicester City Council are out and about in the community talking to people and listening to their views."

The Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, which represents mosques and other community groups, is holding meetings about the protest. Discussions will continue next week.

To take part in the consultation, e-mail:
or write to:
Chief Executive Sheila Lock,
Leicester City Council,
New Walk Centre,
Welford Place,
Leicester, LE1 6ZG.

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