THE Metropolitan Police have said they are preparing to deploy up to 3,000 officers to the streets of East London this weekend to prevent clashes between two ideologically opposed groups.
The English Defence League, a far-right organisation that says it opposes radical Islam, and anti-fascist groups, Unite Against Fascism and United East End, will hold separate static protests in Whitechapel on Saturday after a recent banning order prevented them from marching.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, imposed the 30-day ban that now covers six London boroughs after a request by police following a campaign by local politicians and community groups calling for the march to be stopped.
Campaigners in Tower Hamlets, which has a significant Muslim population, accuse the EDL of being Islamaphobic and divisive to community relations, which it denies.
Following the ruling Luthar Rahman, the Mayor and de facto leader of Tower Hamlets Council, has called for people planning to march against the EDL to ‘stand down’.
However Martain Smith, UAF’s national officer, called for as many people as possible to attend.
He also reacted angrily to the ban saying it should not have applied to the UAF and UEE and that it was a mistake to call for it.
He said: “I’m getting tired of being treated the same as fascists. I don’t want Theresa May or the police deciding how anti-fascism operates. We need a different strategy. I have some sympathy to those who want bans [but] I think they are a waste of time.”
There are concerns that the blanket ban on marches is an attack on civil liberties and legitimate protest, although, the East London Pride march on September 24 has been given the go-ahead.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s has found itself embroiled in a row it knew nothing about after Smith said the EDL will protest on the roof of the supermarket chain’s Whitechapel store car park and asked why they were allowing the EDL to use their land.
But a Sainsbury’s press officer said she knew nothing about the arrangement but admitted the car park may belong to the council or private landlord who could have given consent.
The Metropolitan police refused to disclose the location.
The EDL’s website is directing its members to meet at unspecified predetermined points before being escorted to the site by police.
The UAF and UEE, who are coaching in supporters from across the country, will hold their counter-protest close to East London Mosque, in Whitechapel.
High profile artists including Nitin Sahwny, Asian Dub Foundation and Radio 1 DJ Nihal are set to play at the event, organisers said.