Leicester Braced For Rival Protests

Preparations are under way in Leicester ahead of demonstrations by two opposing campaign groups on Saturday.

The English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) will hold protests in Leicester City Centre.

Around 1,000 members from each group could descend on the city, police said, although it is not known exactly how many may turn up.

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Theresa May authorised a blanket ban on marches in Leicester, but the groups are still permitted to hold static demonstrations.

On Friday police said they have worked hard to make sure the demonstrations do not result in violence - as previous protests and counter-protests by the groups have in other cities.

In what is expected to be the largest policing operation in Leicestershire for 25 years, at least 1,400 extra officers have been drafted in from 12 other forces. The protesters are allowed to demonstrate at Humberstone Gate East in the city, from 2pm to 3.30pm on Saturday. Police are using Section 14 of the Public Order Act which will mean officers can take action against anyone who protests outside that place and time.

Temporary deputy chief constable Gordon Fraser, in charge of the operation, said police have planned for protesters arriving by coach, car and train.

He said: "We're expecting a large number of protesters to travel from outside Leicestershire and this naturally presents a challenge: how we get them from their coaches and the bus and train stations to the protest sites, particularly when public processions have been banned by the Home Secretary.

"Our role is to facilitate a peaceful protest on the day, to ensure that the groups involved can exercise their democratic right to free speech whilst causing as little disruption as possible to those not involved, who want to go about their business as usual."

Police and council officials have also worked with some local pubs and bars in nearby Hotel Street to allow some protesters to meet there before making their way to the protest area. Some roads in the city centre will be closed and bus routes have been moved around and away from Humberstone Gate East, he said. Officers are expected to be in rows near the protesters, with the possibility of support from the dog unit, mounted unit and East Midlands Air Support Unit.

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