Campaign heats up to ban EDL march

By Ian Dunt

An English Defence League (EDL) march into the heart of London's multicultural community could be banned following a sustained campaign.

Activists have argued that the demonstration – tabled for September 3rd through Tower Hamlets – comes too close to the riots and could trigger inter-communal violence.

A 25,000-strong petition, backed by Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, has been handed in to the Metropolitan police, who must request a ban for the home secretary to be able to move on the issue.

"The EDL use religious hatred in a way that stirs up racial hatred. Their activities have often led to violence and physical intimidation," Mr Livingstone said.

"There are many who have put forward civil liberties arguments for allowing the far right to demonstrate, however unpalatable their views may be.

"The context of this EDL march is now radically different following the riots and disturbances we have seen on our streets. We should be putting Londoners first, not the rights of the EDL to intimidate people."

The EDL, a group formed primarily from football supporters with a violent Islamophobic message, would face significant counter-demonstrations if they marched in Tower Hamlets.

The groups promised to take their "message into the heart of militant Islam within our own country".

"The last two years of demonstrations could arguably have been dress rehearsals for this one," it added.

Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: "The message to the police and to the government is clear – Tower Hamlets does not welcome extremist organisations like the EDL who want to divide our united community.

"To allow a racist organisation to march through an Olympic borough that is a stone's throw away from the Olympics site preaching hate would send the wrong message about our great city to the world."

Nick Lowles, co-ordinator of the HOPE not hate campaign, said: "Given the events of recent weeks it seems foolhardy to allow a racist march to take place if there is a serious threat to disorder.

"The communities of London have had enough of trouble and the police and the government should act now to protect us."