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Activists call for cancellation of Birmingham EDL march

PLANNED PROTEST: Member of the EDL are set to demonstrate in Birmingham (PA)

LEADERS OF Birmingham’s African and Caribbean community are concerned over an English Defence League (EDL) protest planned for this weekend in the heart of the city.

The protest in Centenary Square, scheduled to go ahead on Saturday (July 20), will be held yards from where up to 2,000 African Caribbean and other young people from across the UK and Europe will be attending a Christian convention at the International Convention Centre (ICC).

Community leaders have met with West Midland Police chiefs urging them to take action and cancel or at least postpone the event.

Desmond Jaddoo of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, Maxie Hayles, of BARAC Birmingham (Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts) and Rev Carver Anderson, who chairs the Strategic Alliance lobby group, are trying to secure an 11th hour postponement but the chances of this happening are slim.

Members of United Against Fascism (UAF) are also planning a protest in nearby Chamberlain Square next to Birmingham Council House.

Jaddoo said: “We are concerned for the safety of these youngsters who could be subject to racial abuse and indeed possible attacks, as the EDL protests do cause concern with regard to public disorder.

“This demonstrates the need for legislation to be available in order to ban these types of protests where there is a clear danger to the public, namely in this case the 2,000 youngsters at the ICC.”

CONCERNED: Maxie Hayles

Hayles, who will be speaking at the UAF protest, added: “We believe that the EDL’s protests are against people of colour. The senseless murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich does not just have implications for the Muslim community as the accused men are of African Caribbean descent.”

Sharon Rowe, Assistant Chief Constable for West Midlands Police is the officer in overall command of the major policing operation planned for the day.

She said: “We recognise that people feel anxious about having these protests in our city, particularly after the recent events in Walsall and Tipton – and we believe that our resources would be better placed in local neighbourhoods, tackling local issues.

“Having said that we have a duty to facilitate people’s right to protect, so long as it is peaceful, regardless of whether the group’s views are supported by the majority or not.

CLEAR DANGER: Desmond Jaddoo says the EDL march is a threat

Rowe added: “West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council do not have the power to ban static protests such as these. We will have more than 1,000 officers on duty to ensure that the people who live, work, shop or visit Birmingham feel reassured and can go about their daily business in safety. The force is being supported by colleagues from other forces across the country.

“Let me be clear – if there is violent behaviour at either demonstration, or indeed in the wider community, it will be dealt with swiftly and robustly.

“We will identify and bring to justice anyone who is behaving in a criminal or anti-social manner – just as we have done when violence has broken out at previous protests and counter protests in Birmingham, Dudley and Walsall.”

Councillor John Cotton, community cohesion lead for Birmingham City Council said: “Birmingham is a city of many communities, nationalities and creeds – all living and working side by side. We are committed to maintaining a city that is safe and inclusive, free from discrimination and all forms of extremism.”

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