A bishop has condemned the English Defence League for trying to divide communities in Kirklees. Bishop of Pontefract the Rt Rev Tony Robinson spoke out ahead of an EDL rally and counter demonstration in Batley tomorrow.
Up to 700 police officers from West Yorkshire and beyond are on standby as hundreds of EDL supporters descend on the town. The counter demonstration – called We are Batley – will be held at the same time, organised by Kirklees Unite Against Fascism and Huddersfield TUC.
In a statement Bishop Robinson, also interim Bishop of Huddersfield, said: “I condemn the action of all who seek to divide and sow the seeds of distrust between our communities. In particular we deplore, in the strongest terms, the activities of the English Defence League, directed against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
“I fully endorse the words spoken by Her Majesty the Queen: ‘Religions can never become vehicles of hatred, that never by invoking the name of God can evil and violence be justified. Today, in this country, we stand united in that conviction. We hold that freedom to worship is at the core of our tolerant and democratic society.’”
As many as 600 EDL supporters could turn up in Batley Market Place for a rally at 2pm. Kirklees police commander Chief Supt Tim Kingsman has already warned that his officers will deal with any disorder firmly.
The catalyst for the rally was said to be the opening of the Al Hashim Academy, a Muslim educational establishment, at the former Batley Art College building in Cambridge Street, Batley. According to its website, the academy aims to “prevent youth from terror and community vices.”
Anti-racism campaigners will meet tomorrow for a “peaceful, multi-cultural celebration” on the New Way car park from 10.30am.
Nick Ruff, Kirklees UNISON branch chairman, said: “The EDL’s racism and violence is not welcome in Batley or anywhere in Kirklees. Our peaceful, multi-cultural unity gathering will show that the EDL will not succeed in its cynical attempt to divide our communities without a care for the damage they cause.”
Police said the EDL had a legal right to protest. Traders fear that shoppers will stay away.