The Waltham Forest News reports that the Metropolitan Police Service is facing criticism from local campaign group, We Are Waltham Forest, for not banning a planned protest in the borough by the English Defence League, set to take place in a few weeks’ time.
From the local paper:
“Campaigners who are against a march by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) next month have criticised police for not trying to ban it.
“The extremist group, which describes itself as a movement against Islamic extremism but which critics say is racist, is set to protest in Walthamstow on Saturday September 1.
“Last September Waltham Forest was one of five London boroughs where all marches were temporarily banned by the government following concerns about a proposed EDL demo in Tower Hamlets.
“At the time police said they had specific intelligence which suggested that the march could potentially result in "serious public disorder, violence and damage”.
“But now campaigners from the 'We Are Waltham Forest' (WAWF) umbrella group have reacted with dismay after apparently being told by the Met that they will not try and stop the Walthamstow march from going ahead.
WAWF will be holding a community event in the town square on the day “celebrating the borough's multiculturalism”. The event is supported by the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, who told the paper that, “We wrote to the Borough Commander explaining that by banning the EDL march it would send the right message to the EDL and to our communities, particularly our youth.
“Without the ban, unfortunately our congregations will feel the police are allowing these thugs to insult our religion and denigrate our values.
“We are committed to a peaceful protest against these fascists coming to our diverse and tolerant borough, and we will be alerting our congregations to attend the community event in the town centre.”
Muslims make up 15% of the population of Waltham Forest and, as the article states, fears of stoking community tensions led to the Home Secretary imposing a ban on an EDL march covering five London boroughs, including Waltham Forest, from taking place last year. The Home Secretary acted after local politicians, councillors and residents presented her with a petition calling for the EDL to be kept out of Tower Hamlets. The EDL instead held a demonstration adjacent to the borough at which sixty of its supporters were arrested. The leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon, was also captured on film at the protest threatening British Muslims with retaliatory attacks, saying “…every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube, on 7/7 you got away with killing and maiming British citizens…the Islamic community will feel the full force of the EDL if we see any of our citizens killed, maimed or hurt on British soil ever again.” In the Channel 4 documentary, Proud and Prejudiced, Lennon is seen joking about the attacks in Norway and saying to an Asian security officer "I'm from Norway and I'll shoot you."
The EDL have also recently held demonstrations in Bristol after campaigners were unsuccessful in having a march banned, and more recently in Chelmsford.
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