Luton residents’ fears over EDL’s plans to march at charity event

Residents fear there may be “blood spilt on our doorsteps” as a row over charity football matches culminates in a planned English Defence League (EDL) protest on Bank Holiday Monday.

The far-right group say it is “unfair and hypocritical” that Goals 4 Gaza is allowed to take place at Play Football in Stopsley when their fundraising tournament for a young girl in July was cancelled. Worried Stopsley residents contacted the Luton News after receiving leaflets from the Safer Neighbourhood Team advising them of the demo.

A St Thomas’s Road resident who did not wish to be named said: “I am absolutely horrified that a march is taking place in such a small peaceful community and in such a small road. It’s crazy. If trouble kicks off, it could be terrible for the residents. We don’t want blood spilt on our doorsteps. We just want a peaceful Bank Holiday.”

A Beds Police spokesperson said the force will be working with Luton Borough Council and other community safety partner agencies to monitor the situation.

Leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson claimed: “Goals 4 Gaza is raising money for Ummah who have been exposed as funding Hamas, a terrorist organisation. How can they be allowed to hold their tournament there when we couldn’t raise money for dying English kids? It’s wrong.”

Play Football manager Daniel Norris wrote to the EDL and said the cancellation of their July event was “due to the involvement of the EDL causing complaints from members of the Luton community,” claims Tommy.

Tommy said: “Every time we try and get a venue or do something, Muslims harass them until they stop us. Everyone is petrified of the Muslims. The event wasn’t even an EDL event. We’d booked burger vans, a bouncy castle, then the venue cancelled as people had complained saying no Muslim will use the venue again. I understood where the manager was coming from business-wise, but the next day I saw Goals 4 Gaza was happening.”

A Goals4Gaza spokesperson said: “The event has the full support of all the diverse local community and authorities. It’s meant to be a good day out for the participants who are primarily there to play football and benefit a charitable cause.”

Ummah Welfare Foundation is listed on the Charity Commission website for “the relief of poverty and sickness anywhere in the world, and in particular, those affected by natural causes or by wars and conflicts either foreign or domestic.”

A spokesman for Play Foootball said: “We are proceeding with this event because the charity commission have advised ourselves Luton Borough Council and the Bedfordshire Police that this is a legitimate charity. In addition we have been reassured that the event is also supported by St Mary’s Church Luton.

“PlayFootball has run this successful event for the past three years. As a business our focus is on sport and not politics and we do not wish to be associated with any political or extremist organisations.”

The EDL will be meeting at the Sportsman pub at 10am and marching along St Thomas’s Road at 2pm with placards , and Tommy said it would be “a peaceful protest”.

A Luton Council spokesperson said: “The council is working to ensure any disruption for residents and businesses is kept to a minimum and that Stopsley and Luton remains peaceful. This protest is expected to involve much smaller numbers compared to others that have happened in Luton previously.”

Luton News, 21 August 2013