How ‘political policing’ discriminates against the EDL’s opponents

An article in today’s Observer, which deals primarily with accusations of political policing in relation to UK Uncut protests, also refers to concerns about the response of the police to the English Defence League protest in Leicester in October 2010:

Fresh claims of politically motivated policing also surfaced in a report alleging that officers prevented Muslims from attending counter-demonstrations against an English Defence League rally. Leicestershire Constabulary stopped members of the Muslim community protesting against the EDL during a high-profile march last October, according to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol).

It said that the force attempted to dissuade Muslims, through mosques and schools, from protesting against the EDL demonstration at an authorised protest by Unite Against Fascism on the same day, and issued leaflets advising that young people could be picked up and held in “safe areas”.

Val Swain of Netpol said: “This is a strategy that we have seen up and down the country, and it appears to have been sanctioned at the highest levels. It is not for the police to decide which sectors of society are allowed to protest and which are not.”

Saqib Deshmukh, a youth worker in the East Midlands, said it appeared that officers were willing to facilitate the EDL’s right to protest at the expense of the Muslim community, adding: “Certain groups of people are being denied the right to protest. It seems that the government is far more worried about the mobilisation of Muslim people than they are about the EDL.” …

The report by Netpol claims that the reaction by Leicestershire Constabulary could breach articles 10 and 11 of the European convention on human rights, on freedom of assembly and expression. It also reveals widespread disquiet over why the EDL was allowed to congregate in city centre pubs before the march and move close to Muslim areas. One community worker described their treatment as a “policy of appeasement”.

It is worth adding that the UAF event the police tried to dissuade the local Muslim community from attending was a celebration of multiculturalism which was supported by local trade unions and a number of faith and community groups, including a Sikh gurdwara, and passed off entirely peacefully (see hereherehereand here).

The EDL protest, by contrast, ended in violence, arrests and a number of convictions (see herehereherehere and here).