The Rotherham Star and the Yorkshire Post have both reported on protests held over the weekend by the English Defence League and a counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism in Rotherham. The EDL claimed to be holding the protest against the ‘sexual exploitation of young girls’ following court cases concerning the sexual grooming of white girls in the region. Around 800 officers were deployed to police the march.
From the Star:
“Residents revealed they were too frightened to go into Rotherham town centre when hundreds of marchers took to the streets.
“The town came to a standstill as around 300 English Defence League supporters from across the country descended on the town on Saturday.
“They were heavily marshalled by police on foot and horseback as they marched through the streets chanting anti-Islam songs.
“Around 200 people also took part in a peaceful Unite Against Fascism rally and march - staged to celebrate multiculturalism - in the town centre.
“Three men were arrested - one on suspicion of public order including making threats towards a police officer, another on suspicion of affray and a third on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon.
Local residents told the paper of their shock at the scenes. One person stated that “I find it very frightening. I walked into down and didn’t know it was happening but when I saw I contacted friends who have kids to tell them to avoid it.”
A 62 year-old woman said that “This should not be happening in Rotherham…I know a lot of people have avoided coming into town today because they were scared of what might happen.”
Local Councillor, Brian Steele said that: “We have got to stand up to fascists in this country. They are not welcome in Rotherham. We want the EDL out of our town.”
Numerous far right groups, including the EDL have held similar marches supposedly against sexual grooming outside Downing Street in London, as well as in Keighley, Dewsbury, Swansea and at least two in Rochdale (see here and here). As with previous demonstrations, the EDL’s true motivation for organising the demonstration in Rochdale is questionable given that, as the local papers report, the group was “chanting anti-Islam songs”. Some police forces have complained of the significant drain on resources caused by the need to police the EDL’s frequent marches- the Assistant Chief Constable for West Midlands Police, Gary Forsyth, has stated that resources “would be better placed in neighbourhoods tackling the crimes which matter most to local people.” The EDL will be holding marches in the coming months in Norwich and also in Walthamstow. The former is a first time visit for the EDL, but in Walthamstow, the anti-Muslim group will be returning for the second time in as many months.
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