A planned march through Tower Hamlets by far right group the English Defence League looks set to go ahead this weekend – despite threats of legal action if no ban is enforced.
The borough’s mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was snubbed after requesting a meeting with home secretary Theresa May to call on her to ban the march or face a High Court battle. Sources at the Mayor’s office said a petition against the demonstration has been signed by 10,000 people, as opposition mounted this week.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said a decision on how to police the march will be taken as further intelligence is gathered – and refused to rule out a ban. “We will assess the available intelligence and develop the most proportionate and lawful response,” he said. “Given the dynamic nature of such events, decisions must be taken by the operational commands at the most appropriate time.”
The Home Office is unable to ban the march without first receiving an application from Scotland Yard – but no such application has been made.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the police and the home secretary have failed to act, despite my formally requesting them to do so,” Mr Rahman said last week. “I call upon them to see sense, but in the absence of an adequate response I intend to take this matter to the High Court.”
Even if a ban is enforced, EDL leader Tommy Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – said on social networking site Twitter that the group would still come to the borough. In a series of tweets directed at Mr Rahman, he wrote: “We are coming down your rd (sic). Even if Theresa May bans our march, we are still coming. 65% of the community want us there.”
Anti-fascist campaigners have also pledged to turn out in large numbers in a counter-demonstration.