Right-wing march is banned by Government

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The Independent Online

A proposed march by the right-wing campaign group the English Defence League (EDL) has been banned by the Home Secretary.

The group planned to demonstrate in Bradford next Saturday. In opposition, Unite Against Fascism planned a counter-protest on the same day.

But following concerns raised by West Yorkshire Police and Bradford City Council about the potential for trouble, Theresa May issued a blanket ban on all marches in the city on that day. It means that both groups will still be entitled to conduct "static protests" – something West Yorkshire Police expects to happen – but neither will be allowed to march through the city.

A Home Office spokesman said that Ms May had "carefully balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected".

The proposed demonstration raised fears of disorder in the city and a possible repeat of the 2001 riots, which resulted in 297 arrests.

Concerns were first raised by West Yorkshire's Chief Constable, Sir Norman Bettison, who said the events would be "disruptive to residents of Bradford".

A 10,000-signature petition opposing the EDL march was handed to the Home Office earlier this week.

The EDL's leader, last night identified as Paul Harris, who previously went under the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, told Channel 4 News: "I'm not fascist. I'm not racist. It's not about that. I understand they don't want us there because they are worried about what the hostile, violent, Muslim community is going to do.

"We do not want trouble. We want to exercise our democratic right to protest. We have a lot of support in Bradford. People are fearful of the Muslim community there and what they might do."

It is only the third time in five years that a Home Secretary has agreed to ban a march. Both of the previous two instances related to planned demonstrations in Luton. One was an intended march by the EDL on the August bank holiday weekend last year, while the other related to a National Front event in 2006.