Residents are being urged to stay away from Dudley town centre on Easter Sunday, as far right group the English Defence League is set to descend on the town.
The extremist party claims to be bringing around 3,000 supporters on April 4 to protest against the planned £18million mosque.
Council leader, Cllr Anne Millward, said she was angered that the EDL want to come to the “peaceful town”, as West Midlands Police confirm there will be a “robust police presence” on the day in case of trouble. She added: “They say they are coming to protest against the planned mosque, but we’ve had a mosque in Dudley for over 30 years. So what is the point of them coming? We don’t want them and for them to come on Easter Sunday, one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, I think is an absolute travesty. I just urge people to stay away.”
Cllr Millward has also condemned plans announced by anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who have confirmed they will be holding a counter-demonstration on the day, with fears that thousands of outsiders could angrily clash in the town centre. Cllr Millward said: “The plans for the anti-fascist group to outnumber the EDL I think is highly irresponsible. This group just need to be completely ignored.”
But UAF officials said they are organising the “largest peace protest to counteract” the EDL, whose protest will just be “thuggery and hatred”. Martin Lynch, Black Country spokesman for Unite Against Fascism (UAF), said:
“We don’t think people who believe in racism and hatred should be allowed to come to Dudley town centre or anywhere else for that matter. At a recent demonstration in Stoke they ran amok smashing property and hurting people. There is no way this is a legitimate protest of any kind. It will just be thuggery and hatred. If this does go ahead we will seek to call the largest peace protest to counteract theirs.”
Meanwhile, Jim Warner, spokesman for Dudley’s Trade Union Council (TUC) said members had passed a resolution supporting UAF’s counterprotest. Mr Warner said: “We are calling on all our local union branches to encourage members to turn out with their union banners for a peaceful protest. We have also put together a unity statement which has been signed by all our trade union branches, community and faith groups supporting this decision and calling for the protest to be abandoned.”
Update: See “English Defence League switch date for Dudley protest”, Birmingham Mail, 14 March 2010