Bristol’s two Labour MPs, and the party’s candidate for elected mayor, have issued a joint statement condemning Saturday’s march by the English Defence League (EDL) in the city.
Dawn Primarolo (Bristol South), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) and Marvin Rees said yesterday there was “no place for the EDL in Bristol”, but urged those planning to protest against the group to co-operate with police.
The EDL will march through the city, ending in Queen Square, on Saturday. A counter march, organised by a trade unions and community groups, will begin in the city centre. Up to 1,000 police officers are expected to keep the two sides apart.
The two marches come on the same day as the city Pride Festival comes to an end, with a party at College Green.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Labour group said: “We reject entirely the aims, philosophy and method of the EDL. At a time when decent people from all backgrounds are working together to improve their communities, the EDL seeks to cause division, fear and hatred.
“There is no place for the EDL in Bristol. On July 14, thousands of Bristol residents will be celebrating the Bristol we know – a proud and welcoming city that celebrates our differences and rejects totally any attempts to divide us. Bristol is much stronger than a motley collection of EDL members, bussed in from far-flung corners of the country.
“We hope that Bristolians from all backgrounds will go about their normal business on the 14th, but we do understand why those who feel especially strongly about the EDL’s presence in our city will want to protest against their presence. We would ask simply that they co-operate with the police, who will be working hard to ensure that public safety is protected.
“By Saturday evening, the EDL will have left Bristol. They will find little support for their dangerous views and we hope, and expect, that they will never return.”
A group called We Are Bristol – made up of trades unions, politicians, academics and community organisations – have organised the counter demonstration for 11am on Saturday in the city centre, opposite the Hippodrome.
The group has claimed they have been faced with a “hostile attitude” from police who have “focussed attention on ‘extremists’ who wish to show their opposition to the racism of the EDL, rather than on the violent record of the EDL against local communities and on their demonstrations”.
Against the backdrop of the arrests of three men on terrorism charges – thought to have been plotting an attack on the EDL – the We Are Bristol group has insisted it is aiming to hold a peaceful rally.
“We wish in our counter-demonstration to hold a peaceful and family-friendly protest against the EDL,” it said. “In this way we wish to express through our trade unions and other groups our abhorrence of the racism of the EDL, and to celebrate our city’s cultural diversity and innovation. We hope that the authorities, including local police, will take notice of our peaceful intentions, and support our right to protest.”
It would have been better if the three Labour leaders had issued a call to Bristolians to join the We Are Bristol counter-demonstration. This is backed by the TUC South West Regional Council. What is the objection to Bristol Labour politicians supporting it?
As for Bristol24-7, its report adds that tomorrow it will publish “our interview with the EDL, and its response to the Labour MPs’ claims”.
If the EDL were antisemites protesting against the supposed threat posed by the Jewish community, would Bristol24-7 be providing them with a platform to promote their vile views and lie about their real aims? You can bet it wouldn’t.