Hereford & Worcester

EDL protests in Worcester cost £100k to police

Protest in Worcester in July
Image caption One of the protests in the city took place in July

Two protests by far-right group the EDL in Worcester city centre cost £100,000 to police, the BBC has discovered.

The rallies in July and September, which also attracted counter protests, were staffed by 92 and 244 officers respectively, with some drafted in from other forces during the second event.

Almost £12,000 was spent on the first and £88,300 on the second.

Ch Supt Mark Travis, of West Mercia Police, said officers balanced needs of traders, visitors and protesters.

The costs were revealed after a freedom of information request by BBC Hereford & Worcester.

West Mercia Police said it would rather have spent money elsewhere, but people had a legal right to protest.

Under the law, police cannot stop gatherings, but can change the location, enforce time limits and restrict numbers.

Ch Supt Travis said the force had set out to minimise disruption and protect the public.

He said freedom of speech was important and "we can't put people who've got a message out of sight".

"Where that's been done in the past there've been some fairly significant repercussions of people coming and protesting again and again and again, because they couldn't get their voice heard."

But Ch Supt Travis said in future the force would "seek to try and minimise the amount of distance... people would need to walk".

Image caption Police thanked the public for their "co-operation and patience" after the protest in July

Thirty out of 200 traders surveyed after the September rally decided to close for the day.

Of those open, 75% said takings were down and some lost a third of their typical Saturday figure.

Phoebe Dawson, from Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), representing retailers, said: "Would we rather... it [had] not taken place? Probably.

"But we worked really closely to ensure that it went off without a hitch."

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