Up to 400 English Defence League supporters joined forces today (Saturday 17 May 2014) to march through Newcastle.
The event started at 1pm in the Bigg Market, snaked along Collingwood Street, on to Westgate Road, along St James’ Boulevard, on to Barrack Road and into Leazes Park.
The procession was led to the beating of a drum and chants by its members.
Supporters draped in Union Jacks and St George’s flags were hemmed in by lines of police.
The far-right group arrived at Leazes Park to the sounds of a DJ in the sweltering heat.
And from the bandstand they listened to a string of speakers.
Police wearing high visibility jackets flanked the crowds and in the park they carried riot helmets in case of any trouble.
Joining in with the march were people of all ages, from pensioners to mums with their toddler children.
Wendy Angel, from Newcastle, who has been an EDL member since 2011, was an event speaker. She said: “There are more than 300 people here today. It’s great to get this support.”
Ian Crossland, from Sheffield, who is EDL’s South Yorkshire regional organiser, said: “We have had fantastic support. This is just a regional demo and over 300 have turned up. Last week we had a national demo in Rotherham and 700 attended there. We want to get our message across to the general public.”
> And your message is what exactly ?
Hundreds of police lined the streets were the march took place. Across the city officers could also be seen.
Anti-fascist group Newcastle Unites made a counter protest as they marched through the centre. The two groups were kept apart as Newcastle Unites started their march at the City Hall before going along John Dobson Street, on to New Bridge Street, along Blackett Street and ended up at the Monument where they held speeches.
Once the EDL were in Leazes Park, Newcastle Unites members marched along Gallowgate to Barrack Road where they held a static protest.
The EDL then marched back to the Bigg Market where the event finished.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes, said: “The extremist views of groups like the English Defence League have no place in a modern, welcoming city like Newcastle where everyone regardless of colour, creed or ethnicity is treated with respect.
“Their presence here is a huge concern to businesses and communities alike.”
Chief Supt Laura Young, Newcastle Area Commander, said: “As expected it’s been a busy day in Newcastle and I’d like to thank members of the public visiting the city centre and those who work and live here for their patience and cooperation today.
“There have been a number of events across the city, all of which have passed safely and with minimum disruption. All marches passed off smoothly and there have been no arrests or reported incidents of disorder during any of the events.
“Newcastle is a vibrant city and we get thousands of people coming in every weekend to enjoy everything the city has to offer and I’m pleased they felt able to do so today.
“We are expecting a normal busy Saturday night and officers will be on patrol as usual across the city. The city has a lively night life and this is something we are well used to policing. “
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 May 2014