Norfolk

EDL and We Are Norwich protests: Four arrested at demonstrations

  • 10 November 2012
  • From the section Norfolk
EDL supporters at the start of their march
About 200 EDL supporters took part in the march through Norwich

Police made four arrests during an English Defence League march and counter-protest in Norwich.

Officers from 11 forces were on duty as about 200 EDL supporters and up to 2,000 members of the We Are Norwich coalition marched through the city.

Police said the day passed off relatively peacefully, although extra officers remained in the city centre into the evening as a precaution.

Both groups said they were they were pleased with the outcome of the day.

The EDL organised its march in protest at Norwich City Council's decision to ban Pastor Alan Clifford of Norwich Reformed Church for promoting "hate-motivated" anti-Islam leaflets from a council-owned stall on Hay Hill.

We Are Norwich, a coalition of 25 groups, staged a counter-demonstration.

The EDL march began at Castle Gardens, passing through central Norwich to City Hall.

The We Are Norwich march began with a rally at Chapelfield Gardens and also finished at City Hall.

The war memorial was barricaded off and the two opposing groups were kept apart across a "sterile zone" in front of City Hall, but there was some isolated trouble.

Two men were arrested for suspected public order offences.

Up to 2,000 people took part in the We Are Norwich counter-protest

'Total disgrace'

One man was arrested on suspicion of assault, and another on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon. One person received minor injuries in a scuffle. Both demonstrations dispersed at about 15:00 GMT.

EDL spokesman Geoff Mitchell said: "It's gone very well, actually. I think everybody was pretty well behaved.

"I thought it was so important that we had to talk about the reason why we're here: Christianity is under attack.

"What's happened to the pastor is a total disgrace and I think he should get his stall back."

Nick O'Brien, secretary of We Are Norwich, said: "We're delighted with how it's gone.

"We had two main aims: number one, to make sure the EDL didn't get to City Hall or get to the war memorial and, because of the sterile area put in place, that didn't happen.

"Number two, we wanted to make sure we outnumbered them and send a really clear message that the EDL aren't welcome."

'Swift and robust'

Supt Paul Sanford, of Norfolk Police, said: "I am really pleased with the outcome of today's policing operation.

"At times it was challenging for officers but we successfully met our objectives of allowing the two groups to protest, which was their legal right.

"The event was largely peaceful but we acted swiftly and robustly to any signs of disorder."

Some stallholders on Norwich Market closed ahead of the demonstrations. Others remained open, including Tony Osborne, who runs Tony's Food Bar, although he said he closed an hour early.

"Our trade was a good third down on what it would be on a normal Saturday," he said. "We're not against people's beliefs but to have two marches at the same time meeting up very near together was not a good idea."

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