City councillors have voted in favour of calling on police to ban future marches through Hull by groups such as the English Defence League. A march along Spring Bank by EDL activists earlier this month triggered ugly scenes and ten arrests. It was the first time the extreme right-wing group had staged a march in the city.
Former Humberside Police Authority chairman Councillor Colin Inglis, who proposed the motion, said he had no intention of criticising the police over their handling of the march. He said: “I think the police would dearly love to stop things like this but before they do, they need some comfort there is not going to be criticism from people like us. This is about putting down a marker for the police from us as politicians in Hull, saying we will support them doing this in a robust manner.”
Cllr Inglis said a video of the march filmed by the Mail clearly showed that many involved were not even from Hull. The Hull Daily Mail did a great service in recording that event. “Just looking at that video, you might have thought they were a bunch of football hooligans. If they had been, and this had happened inside the KC Stadium, the police would have no doubt dealt with them and banned from the stadium for life. However, this was on a public highway and the police allowed them to do it.”
He said free speech and the power of assembly were not absolute rights. “There is no freedom to incite racial hatred and to incite violence,” said Cllr Inglis. “I don’t want to see groups of thugs being carefully shepherded down Spring Bank.”
Deputy council leader Councillor Daren Hale said Hull’s different cultural communities needed to stand “shoulder to shoulder” against groups like the EDL. He said urging the police to ban similar planned marches would also send a strong message about Hull’s bid to become the UK City Of Culture in 2017.
However, some councillors spoke against the idea of banning people from marching, however abhorrent or extreme their views. Councillor Abi Bell said: “Sometimes, fighting fire with fire is not the way to do it.” Councillor Dave McCobb unsuccessfully moved an amendment to Cllr Inglis’s motion removing the request to consider banning future marches. He said banning extreme groups would only feed their own prejudices and beliefs of being a persecuted minority in society.
The Council motion in full:
“THE council notes the so-called English Defence League march along Spring Bank on June 8.
“It further notes the deliberately provocative nature of this event with participants engaging in crude and racist behaviour clearly intended to elicit a response from local residents in a typical display of fascist street thuggery.
“Council believes the residents of Myron ward, the city in general but Spring Bank in particular deserve to be protected against such blatant attempts to incite communal hatred and calls upon the police to ban any further such planned marches.
“Council required the chief executive to write to the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner setting out this view and asking for their response.”