Mounted police will take to the streets of Exeter this weekend as a major national demonstration is held by the far right group. Hundreds of extra officers from as far away as Birmingham and South Wales will be in city centre on Saturday for the English Defence League (EDL) march.
Demonstrators from across the country are expected to descend in for the march to protest against ‘militant Islam’. But Exeter Together, the group opposing the march, has signed up more than 800 people and organisations to condemn it.
The public has been warned to expected congestion in the city centre between 11am and 2pm, but police stress it will otherwise remain “business as usual”. A police spokesman said: “We are prepared for a large march to happen. There will be a high police presence in the city, even though we have received no information to suggest there will be any violence or disorder.”
Some 250 officers from other parts of the country including Birmingham have been drafted in by Devon and Cornwall Police, in case there is any trouble. South Wales’ mounted police unit, known for their horseback patrol of specialist activities ranging from sporting matches to riots, will provide the most visible officer presence on the day.
The spokesman added: “We respect the right to peaceful protest. But if people overstep the mark, we will deal with them accordingly and robustly.”
The Students’ Guild, the union representing all 18,500 students at the university, advised its members to “bear in mind” the political activity if they were intending to visit the city centre.
In response to the EDL demo, Exeter Together arranged a march on the same day to celebrate diversity and resist “racism and fascism”. It expects “significant numbers” to attend the counter demonstration including residents, community groups and leading councillors.
The opposition demonstration will meet at Belmont Park at 10.30am and march through the city centre to Bedford Square where it is expected a range of speakers and entertainers will perform. Spokesman Hannah Packham said: “Our message is clear: the EDL and with their racist, divisive politics are not welcome in Exeter.”
Update: See “Dean of Exeter Cathedral joins protest against EDL march”, Exeter Express & Echo, 14 November 2013