Hundreds expected as police mount ‘substantial policing operation’
AN ANTI-Muslim protest group which will demonstrate in Birmingham this weekend has been described as a “mob of far right hooligans” with alleged links to the BNP.
The claim was made against the English Defence League by the anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism ahead of their planned anti-Muslim protest in Birmingham city centre on Saturday 8 August.
Supporters of UAF will hold a counter-protest at the same time against the group they have described as “racist”.
West Midlands Police have organised a major policing operation to stop the rival groups from clashing.
The protest in Birmingham is one of three jointly organised by EDL and a second group called ‘Casuals United’.
A message on EDL’s Facebook page said their aim was to “protest peacefully against militant Islam”. It added: “We only exist due to the government and police allowing our British culture to be threatened.”
They also denied they were racist – a claim which has angered supporters of Unite Against Fascism.
UAF claim a similar protest held in Birmingham last month saw protesters chanting anti-Muslim slogans and singing racist songs. They also say an increase of Nazi and BNP graffiti in the city had a direct link to the protest.
Supporters of both groups also clashed with police in Luton earlier this year in a rally against supposed Muslim extremists who chanted slogans and held placards during a homecoming parade by the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in March.
Nine people were arrested and Asian businesses were attacked during that rally.
UAF Midlands organiser Sadia told Socialist Worker, “Lots of local people are determined to show these thugs that their vicious racism is not wanted. We are expecting a good turnout from local trade unions and the Muslim community.”
Superintendent Matt Ward from West Midlands Police said he was unsure how many EDL protesters would be in Birmingham after the group refused a request to meet with police ahead of the rally.
He said police were mindful that “very emotive issues and tensions between protesters and counter protesters can run high”, but a “substantial policing operation” was in place to make sure both groups protest in a “peaceful and ordered manner”.
He added that while there was no evidence to suggest any violence has been planned, officers would be videotaping the protests.