Antifascists in Exeter are concerned about a planned march against terrorism in the city.
Dean Westlake, a former section commander with the Devon and Dorset Regiment, said he is organising the Exeter Stand Strong March for June 23, as part of a national initiative following the recent murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by alleged terrorists in Woolwich. Mr Westlake, 45, is meeting representatives from the police, the city council and Stagecoach to discuss the logistics of the march.
The Stand Strong movement calls for people across the country to unite against extremism, terrorism and oppression. But as previously reported by the Echo, Mr Westlake, along with some of the organisers of other demonstrations, has been accused of being affiliated with far right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL).
Mr Westlake vehemently denies any link with the EDL. But a spokesman for the Exeter Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group, said they still have concerns that supporters of the march are also supporters of the far-right groups. They accused the marches of being “publicity stunts” for the far right. And they have criticised Mr Westlake’s former membership of Combined Ex Forces, which is an extreme right organisation for serving and former members of the Armed Forces, focused primarily on campaigning against Islam.
Mr Westlake said he was a former member of the group but was so “unwittingly”, and has since disassociated himself from the organisation.
“We still have growing concerns that organisers of Stand Strong marches around the country have links with far-right groups such as the EDL,” said the UAF spokesperson. “There is still a risk that the event in Exeter could attract far-right supporters so we hope there is a plan in place to deal with this.” The Plymouth UAF group has also accused the EDL of being involved in the Exeter event, something Mr Westlake strongly denies.
Last week’s Echo reported that Westlake had been a member of Combined Ex Forces for 18 months and claimed to have left it ten days earlier. At the beginning of this month EDL News reported that “Westlake’s Facebook is full of CxF insignias and he is an active member in the south west of England”.