Home Secretary Theresa May has authorised a ban on a proposed march by the English Defence League (EDL) in Leicester.
The right-wing group said it expected 3,000 members to attend a rally in the city on 9 October.
Concerns about the march and a counter-demonstration by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) were raised by Leicestershire Police’s chief constable.
The blanket ban prevents any group marching in the city on that date.
However, it does not prohibit static protests by the EDL and UAF, such as those that took place in Bradford in August after a similar ban on proposed marches.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Having carefully balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected, the Home Secretary gave her consent to a Leicester City Council Order banning any marches in the city on October 9.
“Leicestershire Constabulary are committed to using their powers to ensure communities and properties are protected and we encourage all local people to work with the police to ensure community cohesion is not undermined by public disorder.”
Leicester City Council applied for the ban at the request of the police after formal notification was received that both the EDL and UAF intended to march.
Sheila Lock, the council’s chief executive, said: “Even though the Home Secretary has given her consent it does not prevent any static protests taking place, which are still lawful provided they remain peaceful, as we, nor the police, have legal powers to prevent them.
In response to the Home Secretarys ban on the EDL their leadership have announced that they are going to “pull all police liaison”, “remove all stewarding” and “will still march in one way or another”. It seems like the moderates have thrown in the towel and the extremists are coming to the fore. It also looks like a bad tactical move for the right wing group.
The move seems to be a way of heading off frustration amongst members who are fed up of being “caged” by heavy policing and want to be out on the streets having a fight. The EDL Bradford demo turned into a farce with members attacking their own stewards because they were the only targets on offer. Their leaders want to avoid a repeat of the infighting and want to throw a sop to those who are tired of playing along to the OB’s tune and want to kick off.
Having turned down the offer of a static demo they have basically made their presence in Leicester illegal. While it will certainly give the complacent Leicestershire cops a headache trying to stamp out any illegal march or demo it will also give them much wider powers to disperse the EDL when they arrive. As is being pointed out in the media, organisers and participants of illegal marches can be given prison sentences and heavy fines. Trying to do a flash march in this situation, with 1400 police in town, looks like a big financial risk.
It also makes things a lot less safe for EDL turning up in dribs and drabs rather than as a big mob. They were already sounding cautious about the Leicester demo on their forum because they know they will face a large and angry opposition from local people. Now, rather than having safety in numbers on a big demo, it looks like they will be drifting around in small groups leaving many members vulnerable.
There is a lot of bravado and unlikely plans being hatched on the forum. People are throwing around ideas about flash mobs and last minute demos in other towns. The fact of the matter is that after Bradford the EDL need a big demo to show they’ve still got the numbers and support. A few hundred members turning up in Market Harborough looks like a big flop and they know it. There’s also the question of whether after all the arrests of members, including the leadership, and infiltration by police and opposition groups, they have a secure communications network or not. Given how quick some of them are to reveal all their plans on the internet it seems unlikely that they are all in the loop. To securely organise a big flash mob they wouldn’t be able to get the numbers.
It seems like the end of the “peaceful, law-abiding” front of the EDL and a sure way of alienating the more moderate members in their midst. We’ll have to wait and see.