Cambridge Police Prepare for English Defence League Rally

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By Fiona Keating | February 23, 2013 10:26 PM EST

English Defence League hold rally in Cambridge

More than 400 police officers will be drafted in to the university city of Cambridge on Saturday 23 February in advance of a planned rally by the English Defence League (EDL).

The Cambridge Unite Against Fascism (CUAF) group will hold a counter-protest against the EDL, a political group which claims it is peacefully protesting against militant Islam.

The EDL is due to assemble in Christ's Pieces park between 2pm and 4pm.

According to Cambridgeshire Police, the EDL is not expected to hold a march or procession.

Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, and The Muslim Council of Cambridge will take part in the counter-protest after talks with Cambridge Muslim Council chairman Dr Sejad Mekiæ.

They felt support should go to a Cambridge Muslim Diversity March for Peace and Unity alongside the CUAF procession.

Flyers have been sent out to the council urging "all Muslims" to take part in the march.

The leaflet says: "It will boost our children's confidence and they will love Cambridge more than before."

Marchers will meet at Petersfield at noon and pass the static EDL protest between 2pm and 4pm at Christ's Pieces, twice.

Dr Huppert said: "I feel very strongly about the need to make it clear that Cambridge stands together against fascism and racism.

"This is the second year running that the EDL has targeted our city and, while I recognise their right to protest, I want to make it very clear that they are not welcome here."

Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge's Labour parliamentary candidate, is also backing the counter-protest.

He said: "They now don't stand for election because they know they have no support.

"Instead they turn up in peaceful, tolerant cities like ours to make trouble and to try and instil fear. And to a limited extent, they succeed."

Councillor Tim Bick, Lib Dem leader of Cambridge City Council, has called into question the merits of the counter-demonstration organised by the CUAF.

The council leader said he felt "revulsion" towards the EDL's views but wonders whether the CUAF march was the correct response.

At the city council's latest meeting, he said: "The debate I have in my mind on questions of counter-demonstrations is the degree to which you don't make the people you are demonstrating against feel much more important than they deserve to feel.

"In a city like this, where they have almost no support, it seemed to be proven the last time they came here. They got a lot more airtime because of the numbers that came out against them."

Cllr Bick said he had another engagement on Saturday, but he wished "no less success" to the counter-demonstration.

Superintendent Vicky Skeels, the Cambridge City Police Commander said: "We are taking the planning for this event very seriously and are actively engaging with a wide range of communities and other agencies to ensure that we are fully informed of issues that may be relevant to local policing on the day. 

"At this stage we are unable to estimate the numbers of people expected to attend the protests, however, we will ensure there will be sufficient resources deployed around the city to maintain public safety and to ensure community and traffic disruption is minimised.

"While those taking part in the protest in the city will be allowed to express opinion and protest peacefully, we will not tolerate violence, incitement to hatred or other criminal activity."

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