Anger as date set for English Defence League march in Leicester city centre
The controversial English Defence League has formally applied to march through Leicester city centre.
The group, who critics accuse of using violence, has ended weeks of speculation by making a formal written request to Leicestershire police.
It wants to stage a protest in the city centre on Saturday, October 9, and has indicated that 3,000 supporters will take part.
The route has not been disclosed.
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Counter-demonstrations are being planned by at least two organisations, Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate.
A minimum of 1,000 police officers are expected to be needed in the city centre to ensure public order.
Leicester City Council and the police are carrying out a consultation with people across the city before deciding whether to ask the Home Office to ban the group – and others – from marching on the day.
The authorities are powerless to prevent the group from staging a static protest – although they can impose legally binding conditions on any chosen location, numbers taking part and the duration.
Samuel Tarry, of Hope Not Hate, said the group was aiming to invite Leicestershire people to stand against the EDL.
A ‘peace vigil’ is planned in the city centre, possibly the day before the protest. Meetings have been held with community groups and faith leaders.
Mr Tarry said: “Bussing people in from other parts of the country is not the way forward.
“After the EDL and whoever else demonstrates, it is the people of Leicester who are left to pick up the pieces and, if necessary, defuse any tensions.”
Martin Traynor, group chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Retailers are obviously very concerned a march of this type would put shoppers off coming to the city centre.
“There is also a concern it could have a longer-term impact on people’s perceptions of the city.”
Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon, in charge of policing in the city, said his officers would work with the council to gauge public opinion.
County council leader David Parsons said: “Everyone clearly has a right to demonstrate but the EDL are unwelcome. They are trying to stir things up.”