Rotherham will unite on Saturday to see off the racist English Defence League, who plan to march through the town. Trade unions, anti-fascists and faith groups came together at a packed public meeting on Monday to plan the town’s peaceful counter-protest.
And it is rumoured that Rotherham United will play their Saturday home game on a weekday to head off potential trouble.
The EDL’s march route ends 50 yards from a mosque, which locals see as a blatant provocation.
Sheffield PCS rep Martin Hickman said: “The public meeting was packed. The room held 100 people, it was standing room only and they were queuing outside.” He said the “very mixed audience” included people from the town’s Asian community and local unions.
“There was a vigorous debate. We came to agreement that we be united in Rotherham on Saturday,” he said. “Everyone will stand together in unity against the fascists. My own union PCS is supporting us on their website.”
“We have been told the police are going to allow them to march from the station to the old town hall, which is only 50 yards from a mosque,” said Mr Hickman. “They are going to do everything they can to provoke an incident. Marching right next to a mosque, you couldn’t have a worse act of provocation.”
He said that having the Rotherham match switched to a weekday would avoid potential problems. Unite members spoke to the club’s chairman, but the Millers have since refused to comment.
Between 100 and 200 EDL supporters are expected – nearly all of them from outside the town.
The anti-fascist protest will mobilise local people who will be supported by communities across Yorkshire and Humberside, including nearby Sheffield and Barnsley. “We are expecting a big turnout,” said Mr Hickman.
The anti-fascist protest starts at 11 am at All Saints Square in the town centre. The EDL are expected at 1pm.