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Extra officers on duty for Scottish Defence League marches in Berwick

The Journal | Saturday, 9 February 2013 | Click here for original article

The SDL (Scottish Defence League) march through Berwick Upon Tweed
The SDL (Scottish Defence League) march through Berwick Upon Tweed

Police are to draft in extra resources to a border town for marches by an anti-Islamic group and its opponent.

Northumbria Police has said it will have an increased presence in Berwick later this month when members of both the Scottish Defence League and Berwick United Against Fascism descend on the town.

Police last night said they had plans in place to “respond to any issues” and that it is “the responsibility of the groups involved to ensure they act in a peaceful manner”.

Officers said they would “only intervene if this is not the case”.

The SDL is an offshoot of the English Defence League, a far-right protest movement which opposes what it sees as the spread of Islamism in the UK.

Some events held by the EDL have led to public disorder in England.

The Borders division of the SDL is planning the protest in Berwick on February 16.

Posts on a Facebook group under the branch’s name contain a series of anti-Islamic references and seek to drum up support for the Berwick event.

In response to the event, a group calling itself Berwick United Against Fascism has arranged a march of its own in the town the same day.

Police have said that extra officers will be on duty in the town on the day of the marches.

Assistant chief constable Steve Ashman said: “Northumbria Police is aware of a planned protest in Berwick on February 16 and is monitoring the situation. We have plans in place to respond to any issues.

“We are fully aware of the potential impact of any demonstrations on the local business community and general public and will work to keep disruption to a minimum.

“The force has been working to engage with all the protesting parties to ensure everyone involved knows what is expected of them. We expect everyone to respect the rights of others on the day.

“It is the responsibility of the groups involved to ensure they act in a peaceful manner and we will only intervene if this is not the case.”

The SDL has previously staged a march in Berwick, in April 2011.

In May 2010 a huge police operation was launched in Newcastle on the day both the EDL and Unite Against Fascism held marches through the city.

Both marches took place without serious incident despite fears of violence breaking out.

Around 1,000 police officers were drafted in to ensure the protests passed peacefully.

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