Police have warned potential troublemakers that they will not tolerate any violence, damage or acts of anti-social behaviour ahead of a planned EDL march through Halifax tomorrow.
The EDL (English Defence League) are set to march through the town centre from 1.30pm to highlight the alleged “rise in child grooming gangs in Yorkshire”.
There is expected to be a heavy police presence in the town centre to ensure the protest passes off peacefully.
And whilst acknowledging the EDL’s legal right to hold a peaceful protest, Calderdale divisional commander Chief Superintendent Dickie Whitehead said the police will not tolerate any forms of crime.
“The EDL, like any group, have the legal right to peaceful protest,”he said.
“While we have to facilitate that right, West Yorkshire Police and Calderdale Council will not tolerate any acts of anti-social behaviour, damage, violence or other criminal behaviour from any individual or group. Peaceful protest is lawful and everyone’s right, but the police and the council will plan to minimise any impact on local businesses, shops and communities.”
Chief Supt Whitehead said the police are in contact with the event organisers and will continue to speak with them in the run up to the protest.
EDL members, who are set to come via train, minibus and coach, will meet at the Old Post Office pub on Winding Road from 10am.
At 1.30am they will march down Winding Road towards Halifax Train Station, before going up Horton Street and into Market Street, heading past the Woolshops Shopping Centre, an on to Northgate House. From there they will deliver speeches, which are set to last around an hour.
Some members will then head back to the Old Post Office, whilst others will head home.
A spokesperson on the Yorkshire EDL Halifax Division Page said: “Please remember we will be marching through the town centre on a busy shopping day and the eyes of the general public will be on you so respect the town and the locals.”
Meanwhile, a businesswoman has spoken of her frustration at having to take the decision of whether to close or not on one of her busiest trading days.
Bonnie Bartlett, who co-owns BB Beautique, which is next to the Old Post Office, said she felt she had no option but to close in view of the protest.
Miss Bartlett, 24, said: “Police warned me there would be an EDL protest on Saturday.
“They are starting and finishing at the pub next door to us.
“The streets will be covered so nobody will think about coming down this end and I don’t want to risk people coming in.
“It’s frustrating because Saturday is our busiest day and with us only been open a few months we don’t know what to expect.”
However, Calderdale Council’s Head of Neighbourhoods Andrew Pitts looked to reassure shoppers and business owners and said the police and the council were used to dealing with large scale public events,”
“West Yorkshire Police and Calderdale Council have considerable experience in managing large scale public events and we are working together to minimise any disruption to local businesses, residents and visitors to Halifax town centre,” he said.
“We have spoken to all businesses in the area to make them aware of the demonstration.”