NorSCARF is asking for your support in opposing the EDL’s (English Defence League) demonstration in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 23 January 2010. There can be no good time for such an event, but this is particularly inappropriate so close to Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 when we remember the terrible consequences of making scapegoats of minority communities.
It is therefore NorSCARF’s intention to organise a peaceful vigil against intolerance on the 23rd,
and we are seeking to unite all of Stoke-on-Trent’s faiths and communities behind this.
The EDL are not a political party. Although they market themselves to the media as being “against Islamic extremism”, they have demonstrated that they are a toxic mix of football hooligans and extreme right-wing activists, not just capable of violent confrontation, but actively seeking it. On previous occasions, such as their demonstrations in Luton, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham, they have caused significant criminal damage and engaged in violent and offensive behaviour. In Stoke-on-Trent a group like this has the capacity to cause serious damage to community relations.
One concern is that they may focus their protest in Stoke-on-Trent on the new mosque in Regent Road. If so, any of their supporters arriving by train would inevitably pass through the residential area of Shelton, with its significant Muslim and student population, and they would be determined to provoke antagonism.
Alternatively, they may try to rally in one of the town centres, possibly in the vicinity of Hanley bus station.
In other cities they have congregated at a “Wetherspoons” pub before marching to their main assembly point. Neither Hanley nor Stoke, or any part of the Potteries, should have to face the prospect of hundreds of drunken louts and violent fascists marching through their centre, chanting racist abuse and inciting hatred.
In the recent march in Nottingham the cost for policing the drunken “protesters” was over £1 million. At a time of increasing austerity for Stoke City Council and the police the cost of any planned rallies must be taken into consideration. If there is any trouble, there will also be a large economic cost to the City in terms
of the damage to its image which can only serve to put off any national organisations looking to invest in Stoke in the future.