The English Defence League is planning to march through the centre of Bournemouth on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
The march, planned for this Saturday, is billed as a demonstration against Islamic extremism and could be attended by hundreds of people. In response, members of unions, the National Pensioners’ Convention and the Labour and Green parties have organised an alternative rally to celebrate the town’s diverse culture.
The EDL march will start at 12.30pm outside the Moon in the Square pub and go past the BIC to Pier Approach and up to West Cliff. The counter-protest, involving a number of groups co-ordinated by Unite the Union, plan to meet at Horseshoe Common, taking a proposed route that finishes at Bath Road South car park.
Some disruption is expected between midday and 2pm, although this will be for short periods of time while the marches move through different areas.
Adnan Chaudry, chief officer of the Dorset Race Equality Council, accused the EDL of racism. He said: “We recognise that the EDL is a racist organisation whose main activities are street demonstrations against Muslim communities. They deliberately seek to whip up tension and violence between communities. We’re not going to allow them to divide our communities in Bournemouth.”
The EDL says that it is not a racist organisation and that it is only against “extreme components of Islam”.
David Stokes, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth West, will take part in the alternative march. He said: “We are using the slogan ‘We Are Bournemouth’ for our march and rally because we are trying to highlight the fact that Bournemouth is a peaceful multi-cultural place where we welcome people from around the world.”