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Fears over position of EDL rally in Cambridge

Cambridge News by Raymond Brown | Thursday, 21 February 2013 | Click here for original article

Parts of Cambridge could be “shut down” by police because of Saturday’s English Defence League (EDL) rally in a city park.

The far-right group will be fenced in on a corner of Christ’s Pieces next to Drummer Street bus station where they will have a stage and speakers.

More than 400 officers will police the event as well as a counter-demonstration by Cambridge Unite Against Fascism (CUAF).

The Cambridgeshire force has cancelled all leave for officers on Saturday.

But there has been criticism of the choice of the park.

Tony Carter, chairman of Cambridgeshire TUC, said: “We were shocked when we heard the EDL would be in Christ’s Pieces right next to the bus station and the playground. Lots of families pass through the park and children use it to play in.”

But Cambridgeshire police have acquired special powers to shut down any part of the city if there is a threat of disorder.

The EDL assembly will happen from 2-4pm and CUAF will gather in Petersfield at noon before marching through the city, passing the EDL twice.

The marchers will walk on pavements and walkways from East Road to Burleigh Street, Fitzroy Street, New Square, Christ’s Pieces, Emmanuel Street, St Andrew’s Street into Sidney Street, Green Street, Trinity Street, Market Street and Market Hill, before returning along the same route to East Road crossing over to Norfolk Street, Gwydir Street, Mill Road and back to Petersfield.

An alternative route along Christ’s Lane was opposed by the police and conditions have been imposed using public order powers to prevent serious “disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community”.

Supt Vicky Skeels said: “We are not expecting the playground on Christ’s Pieces to be closed, but if there was a threat of disorder we have the power to shut down any part of the city.

“We are taking the planning for this event very seriously and are actively engaging with a range of communities and other agencies to ensure that we are fully informed of issues that may be relevant to policing on the day.

“I can assure the public we will have sufficient police officers on duty and available within the community to provide a good policing level in Cambridge and ensure the protests are policed effectively.”

Extra patrols will be put on to protect Mawson Road mosque and prevent disorder in city pubs and clubs on Saturday night.

Supt Skeels said: “While those taking part in the protest will be allowed to express opinion and protest peacefully, we will not tolerate violence, incitement to hatred or other criminal activity.”

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