British far-right group, the English Defence League, are planning a mass demonstration in Leicester today. It is thought that more than 1,000 EDL members will be attending the march, although previous events have shown a decline in numbers. The last march in Leicester in October 2010 led to scenes of violence including bottles and bricks being thrown at police officers.
The group plan to meet on at St Margaret's pastures sports centre, St Margaret's Way, Leicester, LE1 3EA between 11am and 12pm. A march will then take place through the city centre along St Margaret’s Way, Burleys Way, Abbey Street, Belgrave Gate, and Church Gate before returning to St Margaret’s pastures for a static demo.
Police have advised pubs in the city centre to remain closed today until the early evening.
Ahead today's demo Craig Leicester from EDL, told BBC Radio Leicester that they’re marching because they believe England is struggling to sustain its culture:
“We’re allowing the extreme sides of Islam to filter the ways in. The Sharia courts, the segregation of people, the burqa and the Quran, things like that are at the cost of our culture. That’s why we’re here to raise awareness of that”.
Unite Against Fascism, a group opposed to the EDL and other far-right groups in the UK have planned a counter protest, hundreds of members are thought to be attending. Leicester UAF will begin their march on Welford Place, heading along Pocklingtons Walk and right into Millstone Lane, leading onto Horsefair Street and Halford Street. They will then turn right for a short distance on Charles Street before heading right along Belvoir Street and back to Welford Place. Police have been in close contact with both groups, coordinating the separate marches in an attempt to stem disturbance on the day. Gary from Leicester UAF said in a phone-in to BBC Radio Leicester:
“What we do is try to expose their racist agenda. It might be Islamic extremism is the flavour of the month for them to attack at the time, it could be Eastern Europeans, previous to this it was the Jamaican community”.
Leicester has been the target of EDL demonstrations before; it is the protest in October 2010 which descended into violence and thirteen arrests, which has led locals to express concern, businesses to close on the day, and extensive police planning ahead of the event today.
Police have advised pubs in the city centre to remain closed throughout the day, but have assured businesses and locals that every effort will be made to keep disruption to a minimum.