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EDL march fails to bring Birmingham to its knees

DEMONSTRATION: EDL supporters arriving in Birmingham

ANYONE HOPING that a much-anticipated English Defence League (EDL) demonstration would bring Birmingham to a standstill on Saturday (Oct 11) was left disappointed as life in the city centre carried on as normal.

Shoppers largely ignored the 300-plus crowd of EDL supporters as they gathered just a stone’s throw from Birmingham’s new multi-million pound library in Centenary Square.

Visitors to the library walked to and fro past the crowd shouting anti-Islamic chants and gave them nothing more than a bemused look.

While a few hundred yards away, a counter demonstration by several groups including United Against Fascism (UAF) in Chamberlain Square outside the Museum & Art Gallery also failed to stop people going about their normal business on a Saturday afternoon.

In all, only ten people were arrested, mainly from the EDL, who West Midlands Police said were held on public order offences.

There were far fewer confrontations with police compared to the last EDL rally held in the city last July.

However, tension rose briefly with police and anti-fascist demonstrators after two steel police cordons were erected in the area separating Victoria from Chamberlain Square.

One demonstrator from Birminghamstrong Justice For All, said: “We felt we were being kettled by police, so we had to negotiate with them for two hours and they took down the cordons.”

CALLING FOR UNITY: A counter protester in Chamberlain Square

Commenting on the day, Birmingham Labour Councillor Waseem Zaffar, said: “I think it was as normal a day in town as it could be. The level of intervention from police was appropriate in the circumstances.

“It’s saddening that Birmingham has to witness such a demonstration, but I think the whole event showed that the EDL is a spent force.”

While community activist Desmond Jaddoo, who was a community observer working alongside police during the demonstration, told The Voice: “It was a fairly peaceful protest on both sides.

“The police did listen to the community this year which led to a much better working relationship. Unlike last year, shoppers were able to carry on with their normal Saturday routine and it was good to see families visiting the library and the museum and art gallery without feeling intimidated.

“There was also good evidence of self-policing within the EDL itself which calmed any potential flashpoints.”

Superintendent Richard Baker, of West Midlands Police, said: “Businesses and attractions were open as usual. The force has no power to ban protest groups from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions, but we have been planning for weeks to minimise disruption to those who live, work or were visiting the city on the day.”

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