Thousands of protesters expected in Peterborough

Peterborough may be best avoided on Saturday as two protest marches are expected to attract thousands of people to the city. One of the marches is being organised by Trades Union Congress and United Against Facism, and the other by the English Defence League. Cambridgeshire police has said hundreds of officers will be manning the events.

POLICE say it will be “business as usual” across the county despite the disruption of two large political marches in Peterborough, which may attract thousands of people and mean hundreds of officers are deployed there.

Chief Constable Simon Parr said: “One of the reasons we were happy to allow this is that it means we can plan for it and can work with the people involved and communities who want to work within the law.

“Our plan has been quality assured and we have it place everything you can reasonably expect.

“We need the people involved to play their part and make this a lawful day with minimum disruption. As for the rest of the county, I can assure you it will be business as usual.”

The first march, organised by the Trades Union Congress and United Against Facism, will gather at the Bishops Road car park at noon on Saturday and move via Rivergate – where shops will be shut – to the Key Theatre car park, where there will be various events until 4pm.

The other march by the English Defence League, whose members oppose the militant rise of Islam in communities, will form at Peterborough United’s London Road ground at 1pm and march to Lower Bridge Street and gather at the magistrates’ court before returning to the stadium at 3pm.

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This will be the last of the 32 EDL protests across the UK this year and the first one in East Anglia. Organisers say as many as 3,000 people could attend each one.

Peterborough Supt Paul Fulwood said police would not only be concentrating on the two opposing marches and demonstrations – which will be a couple of hundred metres apart for most of the time – but also on events caused by people travelling to and from them.

“We will be putting friendly faces patrolling the communities of Peterborough to re-assure people,” he said. “We will have 250 officers doing that and many hundreds more coming in from other forces, including the Met, to help us with the demonstrations.

“We have no reason to suspect there will be any incidents elsewhere – for example at mosques – but we want communities to be re-assured by seeing police around.”

Police will have special “Stop and Search” powers for the day and Supt Fulwood warned: “We hope general members of the public, people who may be over-zealous about the issues, or just looking to use them for an excuse to break the law or cause civil disturbance, will not be active. We will be using CCTV and other methods to ensure criminal activity does not take place in or around these lawful demonstrations.”

It is likely that the main taxi rank at the railway station will be moved as most of the city’s drivers are Asian and many of the EDL supporters will be arriving by train. One EDL group is expected to gather in the Fenland town of March.

Police said there had been between 12 and 70 arrests at other EDL demonstrations around the country.