Politicians call on Home Secretary to halt race-hate protest

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Labour leader Ian Greenwood Labour leader Ian Greenwood

Bradford Council’s political leaders have spoken out against the proposed English Defence League demonstration.

And Council leader Ian Greenwood has explained why he wants the Home Office to ban the event scheduled for August 28.

Coun Greenwood, said: “We have listened to the views of a wide range of local groups about the English Defence League’s (EDL) plans to come to Bradford. The Council by itself has no powers to ban such an event without the consent of the Home Secretary. In these circumstances, we are asking the Home Secretary for this consent.

“Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, and we strongly support that right. But the EDL’s activities in other towns and cities across the country have resulted in significant disruption, some public disorder, and cost the taxpayer, local businesses and local communities many thousands of pounds.

“The people of Bradford want to enjoy their Bank Holiday without having it disrupted by people from outside our district who have no concern about this community, no concern about its local businesses and no interest in its future.

“We are currently gathering information about how the EDL’s demonstration could affect local people and businesses, to give to the Government in urging them to give their consent to ban the demonstration”.

Martin Love, Green Party leader, said: “We want the whole thing to be stopped so that we can have a normal, enjoyable, bank holiday weekend.

“We have been backing Ian Greenwood on this and we have asked the Council’s chief executive to gather the necessary evidence to go to the Home Secretary and bring in the ban.”

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The issue for me is how a ban is framed. Should the ban effectively stop 10,000 thugs from turning up in our city centre trying to have a riot? – Yes.

“Should a ban paralyse civic life for months? – No it shouldn’t. We need to be very, very clear about what we will be banning.”

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, leader of the Conservative group on Bradford Council said: “Free speech and protest are accepted within a free country and should be supported. Human rights legislation reaffirms the right to insult and the right to protest.

“However public disorder is not acceptable and the public should not be put in any position of risk or danger.”

Shopkeepers fears over rally

Bradford city centre retailers have told of their fears about what effect the EDL rally would have on trade, already suffering in difficult economic times.

At a meeting of city centre retailers to discuss regeneration with City Hall chiefs, shopkeepers voiced their concern about the proposed rally.

At the meeting last week one retailer with a shop in Westgate wanted to know what contingency plan the Council had in place to deal with the planned EDL protest on August 28.

She told the meeting that “everyone was terrified about it” and the damage it could cause to Bradford.

Coun David Green responded by outlining the proposals to lobby the Home Secretary for a ban in Bradford which would cover the EDL event.

He said: “Everywhere they have been there has been violence and people avoiding city and town centres. The danger to Bradford as a district and a city centre in particular is immense.

“We’ve been talking about promotion (of the city centre), the potential is that it’s going to put us back ten to 15 years.”

When the EDL held an event in Bolton earlier this year (pictured left) the town centre was brought to a standstill and it devastated local trade.

Coun Green said the Hope Not Hate organisation had organised an online petition and had produced postcards for people to sign, calling on the Home Secretary to ban the protest. He urged retailers to sign them and take some for their friends, and to sign the petition.

Paul Meszaros gives his view

Our city faces many challenges. As Bradfordians we know that there are issues of concern that we must address and that there are problems that we must resolve together.

We also know that the vast majority of people from all backgrounds want to find solutions that are fair and respectful to all, and that do not scapegoat or stigmatise individuals or communities. Our once proud image has suffered, often unfairly, at the hands of the national and international media. Bradford has been stereotyped as a city of racial intolerance or of riots. We know that this is not the true picture of Bradford but we also know that if the city is to move forward we need to continue to focus on the many positive aspects of our city and the wider district.

In the last nine years Bradford has shown that we are not a city of extremism. We are faced with many challenges but we are blessed with remarkable citizens from all backgrounds who can and will work together to build a better future for all of us.

Bradford Together is a coalition of organisations and individuals in Bradford who are worried that the proposed march by the English Defence League (EDL), could lead to serious disorder.

Calling for a ban is not something we do lightly. Our country has a proud and ancient tradition of tolerance and part of that tolerance is allowing people we disagree with to express themselves.

There are some groups who refuse to understand that with freedom comes responsibility. Extremists who want only to cause trouble, division and conflict and who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. The EDL is one such organisation; they are calling their planned event in Bradford ‘The Big One’ and can hardly wait to bring racism and violence from outside into our city.

This, then, is not a question of freedom of speech, it is a question of protecting Bradford from extremists who do not care about the lives of the people of Bradford and have no stake in our future.

We know that the vast majority of Bradfordians want a peaceful city; not one that outside agitators turn into a battlefield. We believe that if enough Bradfordians ask, then the Home Secretary will grant us a ban. Everyone knows how damaging the last riots were; by working together we need to make sure that we never witness those scenes again.

Many organisations and individuals have signed up to Bradford Together. These include the Bishop, Bradford University, Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Bradford TUC and many more. If you would like to sign up or for more information visit www.bradfordtogether.org.uk

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