1,000 people expected in marches


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The Independent Online

More than 1,000 protesters are expected to take part in marches by two opposing campaign groups today.

Extra police have been drafted in from forces across the country to ensure the two marches by the English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) pass off peacefully in Leicester city centre this afternoon.

Leicestershire Police have worked with both groups to plan the demonstration routes to ensure they cause as little disruption to the city as possible.

The English Defence League and Leicester Unite Against Fascism will march from 12.30pm.

The EDL will gather at St Margarets Pastures car park, while the UAF will meet in the piazza at the council's New Walk Centre offices at Welford Place.

The marches are expected to last 90 minutes.

Police will escort the groups around two different routes in the city centre.

Some roads in the city centre will be closed and bus routes have been moved to avoid disruption during the marches.

Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon said a large team of officers experienced in policing large-scale events will be supporting the policing of both marches to ensure there is minimum disruption in the city.

He said: "We know there will be some people looking at the march routes who immediately feel concerned and these are not feelings we take lightly.

"Clearly, there will never be one route that is perfect for everyone, but please be assured that our joint agreement on these routes draws heavily on our experience of dealing with these kinds of large-scale events.

"We have used our experience of policing football and rugby matches, the disturbances in the summer and the last protest in October 2010 in the planning for next Saturday and are putting together a policing plan to ensure there is as little disruption as possible to normal city centre business.

"Both the EDL and Leicester UAF came to us with a plan of where they would like to march. These were both carefully risk-assessed and it was this which formed the basis of any negotiations with the event organisers. There has been lots of dialogue between the organisers, the police and the city council to get to this point."

Leicester's City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: "None of us want these marches to take place, but looking at what happened in Leicester and other cities last year, we believe the marches will cause less disruption than the static demonstrations of October 2010.

"We will need to make some changes to bus routes and traffic flow while the marches are taking place, but we are aiming to get the city back to normal as quickly as possible once they have ended."