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People urged not to react to demonstrations in Bradford
Police and Bradford Council chiefs last night urged people not to react to a protest by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) and any counter-demonstration in the city later this month.
It has been confirmed that the EDL has given formal notice of its intention to hold a demonstration in the city centre on Saturday, October 12.
Bradford West MP George Galloway has called for the EDL to be banned from the city, but the authorities responded by saying they had no legal powers to do so.
A joint police and Council statement said: “We know that local people do not want their city to be used by the EDL and counter protest groups as a venue for demonstrations.
“We understand the concerns of local people and local businesses within our communities about what the protests could mean for them, their families, their businesses and the city itself.
“We also understand that some people may have an expectation that the police or council should ban the demonstrations. We don’t have any legal powers to do this. We therefore have to plan for them in order to ensure public safety for everyone.
“West Yorkshire Police and Bradford Council have been working together for some time with other partners to plan for the protests so there is minimum disruption in the city centre on the day and a return to normality as soon as possible after the event.
“Our aim is to ensure that the normal life of Bradford can continue, we get the protesters out of the city quickly after the demonstrations, and that citizens can go about their daily lives as usual, as far as possible.”
Bradford Council leader David Green said a community event to celebrate Bradford was being arranged in the city centre for Friday, October 11.
“The EDL’s agenda is abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of Bradfordians and we do not want them in our city or district,” Coun Green said.
“Such protests also cost taxpayers and city centre retailers many hundreds of thousands of pounds, through the public resources needed to manage them and lost business, but we don’t have any legal powers to ban them.
“We are therefore currently working with the police, local organisations and businesses to minimise disruption in the city centre and ensure public safety, so local people can go about their daily lives as normally as possible on Saturday, October 12.
“The Council is working with a wide range of community groups to hold an event celebrating Bradford and its people in Centenary Square on Friday, October 11.”
Mr Galloway (Respect) said a peaceful multicultural celebration organised by We Are Bradford would take place in the Urban Garden on October 12.
He said: “The last thing Bradford City Centre needs is these people coming from outside Bradford to try to intimidate and abuse shoppers on a busy Saturday afternoon.
“This gathering will be to bring Bradford together in unity to celebrate the profusion of cultural gifts that this city has, with music and other events.”
Bradford South Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Simon Atkin, reassured people that there would be an appropriate police presence to ensure public safety but he reiterated the appeal for people not to be provoked into reacting to any demonstrations.
"West Yorkshire Police are experienced and very capable of managing such protests,” Ch Supt Atkin said.
“There will be plenty of police officers working in the city centre on the day, to maintain public safety and reassure and assist local people and businesses.
"We are urging people not to be provoked into reacting to the demonstrations. The people of Bradford have a big role to play, we ask that you allow the police to handle the protests and that you do not get involved yourselves.
"Peaceful protest is lawful and everyone's right, but we do not want people coming into Bradford intent on confronting any protesters."
The EDL last held a demonstration in Bradford in August 2010 resulting in a huge police operation that cost taxpayers £650,000.
Bradford South Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe said last night: “I expect the same police and council community operation as last time and make sure people are not led into any violence.
“I would rather EDL was not here. The law is the law, but it should be changed. If the police and council do not think it is appropriate or in the public interest it should not be allowed to go ahead.”