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Praise for police and communities after damp squib EDL protest
Police chiefs and community leaders have praised the people of Bradford after a protest in the city by the far-Right English Defence League passed off without incident.
A major policing operation, involving more than 1,000 officers from across the country, ensured that the demonstration by about 600 EDL supporters was peaceful, with just a handful of arrests.
A grey and drizzly day helped to put a dampener on the protest, and a small counter-demonstration in the Urban Garden, with city centre businesses open as normal and shoppers refusing to be deterred.
The divisional commander of Bradford South Police, Chief Superintendent Simon Atkin, said it had been the smoothest-run police operation in his 23 years service, but he said the whole community of Bradford had played its part.
“The people of Bradford should be absolutely proud of this day,” he said. “Everybody in the city has played their part in ensuring that we could deal with this protest in a very sensible, proportionate and effective manner.
“There have been no issues. This day has shown how people are maturing in terms of ignoring something they don’t like, trusting the police to deal with it, and getting on with their lives.”
Chief Supt Atkin said the estimated £1million cost of the police operation was justified.
“It is a fine balance between the cost of success and the cost of failure. The cost of failure would have been immeasurable.”
Less than two hours after the EDL had trooped away from Bridge Street, to their coaches and special train, the city centre was back to normal.
The rows of police vans, lines of officers and police horses had dispersed, barricades had been removed, even the plastic beer cartons left strewn in the road had been swept away.
Chief Supt Atkin added: “The people of Bradford have just gone with this. We didn’t ask them to stay away but asked them to carry on with their normal day and they have done that.
“The whole community has acted with the utmost dignity.”
One example was the unexpected appearance of members of the Sikh community at the police rendezvous point to serve up curry to hundreds of officers.
More than 1,000 police officers were on duty, around half of them from 20 other forces across the country. There were 600 people at the main protest and 150 at the counter-demonstration.
A total of 11 arrests were made at the two demonstrations for public order offences. They are all expected to be charged and face court.
Zulfi Karim, the secretary of the Council for Mosques, was instrumental in helping distribute 900 curries to police officers based at Odsal. The curries were made by the Gurdwara Sikh Temple on Leeds Road.
Mr Karim praised all the faith groups who came together on Saturday.
“Making the food was a way of making the officers really appreciate the city in a positive way,” he said.
“I think the highlight for me was that Bradford turned its back on the EDL.
“People were still shopping in the city centre. Bradford is going to be much better and stronger after this.
“Once again the community showed it comes together when it needs to. And let’s just hope that we don’t have to go through this exercise again.
“I am absolutely amazed at the response by the police. I followed the police operation from sunrise and it was excellent.
“They stood shoulder to shoulder with the community rather than them and us.”
The leader of Bradford Council, Councillor David Green, praised the police reaction.
“I think it was a tremendous effort by police to keep the city and its citizens safe and open for business as far as possible,” he added.
“I think everybody in Bradford needs to thank the police from all over the country who came and helped.
“It shows that Bradford people are not going to be intimidated by people coming from outside to spread hatred and division. We have shown we are a community united and we won’t let those people come from outside to cause division.
“The police operation was in line with experience of policing at other demonstrations, not just in Bradford but elsewhere.
“Had it gone wrong people would be asking why police resources were not available.
“The police have been prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. Due to their efforts we got the best.”
Councillor Imran Hussain, the deputy leader of the Council, said that he believed it was a very good day for Bradford.
“I think that hope has triumphed over hate,” Coun Hussain said.
“Bradford has shown there is a strong unity and resilience in the district with all the community with people from all faiths.”
The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, told the Telegraph & Argus: “The EDL came and shouted at themselves for half an hour. And what did they achieve – apart from a million pound bill for the Council and police? Bradford stood proud and did not give them what they wanted. The EDL came and went and life carries on. And we continue to work and pray for peace and the common good in our city.”
Bana Gora, head of Bradford Muslim Women’s Council, said: “We are really proud of all our Bradford citizens who have turned their backs on the EDL and gone about their normal shopping on a Saturday ahead of the Eid celebrations. Once again, Bradford has shown what a resilient city it is.
“We hope that the Government will look at banning such events in the future. When we look at the cost to the public purse of policing such activities, especially at a time of austerity, we must realise we simply cannot afford that sort of money.”