Fear and anger as Polish march in central Peterborough descends into chaos

Crowds carrying flags let off flares and fireworks in Peterborough. Photo: David Lowndes
Crowds carrying flags let off flares and fireworks in Peterborough. Photo: David Lowndes
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Peterborough MP and city council leader demand answers from police after flares and fireworks lit in an evening rally which left city centre on-lookers worried for their safety:

Angry demands for answers have been made after police allowed a rally in which flares and fireworks were thrown to take place in Peterborough city centre.

The rally in Peterborough city centre - image supplied

The rally in Peterborough city centre - image supplied

No arrests were made at the rally on Saturday evening (8 November) but police were left tackling anti-social behaviour as flares and fireworks were lit and thrown.

The flag-waving and chanting crowd, who were celebrating the anniversary of Polish independence, marched from Cathedral Square to Central Park.

Officers were forced to seize alcohol and fireworks in Cathedral Square before the crowd descended on Central Park where they were reported to have chanted offensive anti-police sentiments in Polish and lit about 100 flares.

The crowd were estimated to be up to 300 people.

Police say no criminal offences were reported to them.

However, shoppers and revellers in the city centre say they were left worried for their safety. People tweeting the Peterborough Telegraph said the event looked “terrifying” and that some people thought it was a riot.

Now, the city’s MP and leader of the council are to ask police how things were allowed to get so out of hand.

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said: “Why did police allow something that could have degenerated into a major incident of public disorder to go ahead?

“Why did they allow people to have flares and fireworks and to throw them about in the city centre?”

“Police were wrong footed and clearly lacked foresight and intelligence about this matter.

“I will be seeking more information from Cambridgeshire Constabulary on what happened. I hope that this situation doesn’t recur as it did frighten quite a few people in the city centre.”

Leader of Peterborough City Council, Councillor Marco Cereste, also tweeted that he will speak to police to find out more.

Police originally stated that they were present at “an organised parade” and that “flares and fireworks were lit which were extinguished where possible.”

However, they later added that the event had become a problem after Polish people from outside the city joined the rally.

Related: Cambridgeshire police took the unusual step of issuing a statement to explain the way officers handled the Polish independence rally, read it in full

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Sergeant Stuart Saunders said: “One of the event’s organisers who we have subsequently spoken to informed us that they made a mistake by putting the event out on social media.

“This resulted in a lot of people from outside of Peterborough attending and lowering the atmosphere to the extent that local Polish residents left the parade, taking their children home as they felt unsafe.”

A council spokesman said it had been contacted by a member of the public to hold the event but that it was never sanctioned and should not have taken place.

However, police confirmed that due to the European Convention on Human Rights, having been given at least six days’ notice, they could have only banned the parade with the authority of the Home Secretary.

A group called the Polish Community Peterborough, who were not involved in the march, said: “It would be unfair to say that the attenders’ hearts were not in the right place as our national celebration is so important for us all.

“However, the organisers should have taken into account the rules, safety, as well as standards of behaviour while organising such a event to make sure the march didn’t happen in the way it did on Saturday.”

The official day for Polish independence is November 11. A parade last year in Peterborough also saw flares lit up in Central Park.

Police did not reply to questions asking why no publicity was given to the event before it took place.

Previous story: Menacing scenes as flares let off in Peterborough city centre rally, 10 November.

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