Welsh Assembly Member criticises police response to Cardiff EDL demonstration

EDL Cardiff 2Police have come under attack from an Assembly Member for the way they handled a controversial protest march in Cardiff.

Leanne Wood told the National Assembly she had been “sickened” by the decision to allow members of the Welsh and English Defence League to rally in Cardiff.

The Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central addressed a counter demonstration by Unite Against Fascism on June 5. But she said she was “appalled” that South Wales Police had spent money “building a steel fence and kettling in the anti-racist protesters, while the English Defence League were escorted to a pub and then escorted on a march around the city centre”.

Ms Wood has asked the Assembly Government to examine what happened and report back “to make sure that a situation that happened in Cardiff a week last Saturday can never happen again”. She has also written to Chief Constable Peter Vaughan expressing her concerns.

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said they had not yet received Ms Wood’s letter. But Assistant Chief Constable Nick Croft has already responded to a letter from Ross Saunders, of the Cardiff Communities Against Racism group.

In his reply Mr Croft explained that the Welsh and English Defence League protest had been allowed to go ahead because it was lawful, even if the views expressed were “unpopular or disturbing”.

South Wales Echo, 17 June 2010

Cf. Nick Lowles’ recent article condemning “the complete failure of the authorities to address the growing EDL threat. Over the past few years hundreds of millions of pounds have been ploughed into community cohesion and other such initiatives but then we are told that groups that are deliberately setting out to whip up tension and violence cannot be stopped”.

He continues: “The problem appears to stem from the Public Order Unit at the Home Office, who have taken it upon themselves to act as the champions of free speech in advising successive Ministers that EDL protests should be allowed to happen…. They currently hide behind the legal opinion that static protests cannot be prevented but their real reason is far more ideological and short-sighted.”