MP opposes rally ban despite violence fears

08:31 by Editor · 0 Post a comment on AAWR

A rally against Islamic extremism should be allowed to go ahead, despite the shocking scenes of violence at a similar event earlier this month, according to an MP.

Steve McCabe (Lab Hall Green) said he disagreed with calls for the police to ban the English Defence League from holding a demonstration in Birmingham city centre on September 5.

A protest in Birmingham earlier this month led to the arrest of 35 people, and running battles between protesters and police in riot gear in Victoria Square and New Street.

A public meeting was held in Birmingham Council House to discuss the violence over the weekend, and those attending voted unanimously that police should have the next demonstration banned.

Police do not have the power to ban all protests, but can ask the Home Secretary to ban a march – when protestors are moving – if they believe there is a serious risk of public disorder.

Mr McCabe, writing on his blog, said banning the demonstration would allow the English Defence League to claim they were being victimised.

He said: “This seems to be a pretty unsavoury right-wing alliance and the last time they had an event in Birmingham there was some trouble but I’m uneasy about a ban. Doesn’t this allow them to play the ‘freedom of speech/victim card’?

“Public safety is important but we can’t go around banning things because we don’t like them or because of the threat of a reaction from some or other group.

“It’s uncomfortable but our system is built on defending the freedom to express all sorts of opinions.”

Police could apply to the Home Secretary for a banning order if they believed they could not maintain order during a demonstration, but this did not appear to be the case, said Mr McCabe.

“Let them have their event and let’s arrest every single one who steps out of line and those decent people who oppose what they stand for should meet in much larger numbers elsewhere in the city. We need to challenge what they represent not give them excuses to play the victim or suggest our police can’t handle them.”

Luton has already barred the English Defence League from holding marches for three months.

West Midlands Police are currently considering whether to apply to the Home Secretary for a banning order.

A spokesman said: “West Midlands Police will always facilitate a lawful and peaceful demonstration in keeping with peoples’ democratic rights and officers will ensure that all those who attend are safe. We have no plans to ban the march.”

The English Defence League has been accused by critics of being a far-right organisation, a racist organisation or of having links to the BNP, but it vehemently denies the claims. It says it is opposed to extremism and the introduction of Sharia law in the UK. continues here

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