Stay away from English Defence League protest in Leicester, urge city's faith leaders
A united call has gone out urging people to stay away from protests by the English Defence League and its opponents.
Police, Leicester City Council and faith leaders, including the Federation of Muslim Organisations, hope to minimise the potential for public disorder when the English Defence League (EDL) stages a protest on Saturday, October 9.
Groups opposed to the EDL, including Leicester Unite Against Fascism, are planning counter protests.
Together, it is thought, the demonstrations could attract several thousand people.
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A peace vigil is being planned for the Friday night before the protest, while a "celebration" of the city is being lined up for the Sunday.
However, police and council officials have stressed the city centre will be open for business on the day.
The timings and location of the protests have not been agreed yet.
Leicestershire's chief constable Simon Cole and the city council have asked the Home Secretary to ban all marches on the day.
The authorities are powerless to prevent static protests. Instead, they are only able to impose conditions on the location, size and duration of static demonstrations.
Deputy chief constable Gordon Fraser said: "We would like people to not take part on Saturday and to join the festivities on Friday and Sunday.
"Our advice is to not be tempted to come into the city centre on that day to take part in these events."
Sheila Lock, chief executive of Leicester City Council, said: "If people want to protest about what the EDL stands for, we would ask them to make their protest on the Friday or the Sunday.
"On occasions like this people can get caught up in events in a way they wouldn't if they had time to reflect.
"We have spoken to the retailers and, by and large, it will be business as usual.
"We are waiting to hear from the Home Secretary. Even if we get the ban on the march, we do not have powers to ban a static protest."
Faith leaders last night spelled out their opposition to the EDL.
In a joint statement, leaders of the city's Faith Leaders Forum, whose members include the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish faiths as well as others, said: "We condemn all who seek to divide and sow the seeds of distrust between our communities.
"In particular, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the activities of the English Defence League."
The Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, which represents almost 200 mosques and community groups, also urged people to stay away.
Spokesman Suleman Nagdi said: "Our strong advice is that people stay away from the EDL protest and any counter demonstration and rallies that may take place.
"We believe any counter protest will only serve to undermine the image of Muslims as a law-abiding and peaceful people.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from Muslim communities in other parts of the country.
"We in Leicester appreciate this greatly but would urge our fellow brothers and sisters from around the UK not to travel to Leicester and participate in any counter demonstrations."
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