LETTER: Peterborough must not be bullied by the EDL

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My letter arguing for the proposed EDL march to be banned was published in the paper on September 14. I read with interest the paper of September 21, describing the EDL’s plans, and also quoting from debate on your Facebook pages about the issue, and an article from Paul Stainton on the same issue.

I have been told by Police Commander Andy Gipp that the police will support banning only if they will unable to manage the proposal in the belief it will cause, on this specific occasion, serious disruption to the community.

I know marches by the EDL have been banned elsewhere – eg in Luton in September 2009. I also know that costs of policing these marches vary between £300,000 and £1m.

I am sure the police can manage this march but only at significant expense to the council tax payer. I have heard them say that the costs will be met by contingencies budget: how will this leave us if there is eg a terrorist attack or major disaster in the area in future, with the budget spent?

In my view the proposed march will without doubt cause “serious disruption to the community”. In 2010 and 2014 shops and other businesses shut for the day, and social and community events within five or more miles were cancelled.

The then Prime Minister David Cameron described the EDL in 2010 as “terrible people” who “incite hatred”. His then Communities Secretary John Denham condemned the EDL, saying its tactics are similar to those of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s: “If you look at the types of demonstrations they have organised, the language used and the targets chosen, it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke, to get a response and create violence”.

Those quoted as responding on your Facebook page say banning this event would be an attack on freedom of speech: it is nothing of the sort.

No one is stopping the EDL speaking, using social media, writing letters to newspapers, talking about their views (providing they do not break laws which define eg inciting racial hatred). There are many other instances where a wide variety of demonstrations have been held in the city: they relate to local issues or they allow local people to express views on national issues. None have resulted in injury, arson, smoke-bombs and bricks being thrown, as EDL marches commonly do. The reasons shops close and people are frightened to come near the city is that EDL marches, imposed on the city by those with no link to the city, have a long and unique history of intimidations, creation of fear and criminal damage.

No-one is removing the EDL’s freedom to express their views (whilst these remain legal) but why should Peterborough have to tolerate a costly, deliberately disruptive event which has no purpose except to bring hatred and damage to our city?

Paul Stainton has it right: the EDL are, as he says, aiming to distribute “their unique brand of Fascism and hatred on the streets of our city, all under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’”.

Are we willing to be victims of their bullying and pay for it in lost shopping days, depleted police budgets and a day of being afraid to visit our own city centre?

Tony Forster, All Saints Road, Peterborough