A trio of men arrested in connection with a major national demonstration by a controversial far right-wing group in Exeter have appeared in court.
Kurtis Coyle, Daniel Holmes and Steven Hart were brought before Exeter Magistrates today following the English Defence League (EDL) march in the city on November 16.
Coyle, 21 from Heavitree, was given a suspended prison sentence of four weeks after he admitted the possession of a knuckle duster in the The Chevalier Inn, Fore Street as well as the possession of a class A drug. He claimed he was planning to take the weapon “to a mate’s house” after apparently buying it online for £10, the court heard.
Coyle was ordered him to pay costs of £165, and was told the drugs – 1.4g of cocaine – would be destroyed.
Daniel Holmes, 30 from Exwick, issued no plea after being charged with the possession of a knife on Queen Street. He was granted unconditional bail and his case will be heard at Exeter Crown Court on January 3.
Steven Hart, 48, from the Pinhoe area of Exeter, was given a custodial discharge of six months after admitting being drunk in a public place. Hart, who was described as a “long-term alcoholic”, was found lying down on a pavement under the influence of alcohol and unable to stand unassisted, the court heard.
A fourth man arrested – a 49-year-old Surrey man – had been given a fixed penalty notice for being drunk and disorderly in the city centre on November 15.
Chief Inspector Jim Gales, of Devon and Cornwall Police, described the day as a “success” for the force. “We had to intervene at times to prevent outbreaks of disorder, making a very small number of arrests,” he said. “But what we [were] able to do [was] to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and allow the inhabitants of Exeter to go about their daily business safely.”
More than 200 people travelled from across the country for the EDL march and rally in the city centre. But a total of 1,000 people, under the banner of Exeter Together, paraded down the streets earlier in the day and gathered for a rally to condemn the group.
A mounted police unit from South Wales were among a total of 400 officers from as far away as Birmingham who were tasked with patrolling activities.
City centre manager John Harvey described the police operation as “excellent”, saying the force ensured it remained “business as normal”. “It could have been a day that tarnished the city, but actually it enhanced its reputation. On lots of levels, we can be very proud,” he added.
Some 225 EDL supporters gathered at the Locomotive pub on New North Road before marching along the road, down Queen Street to Rougemont Gardens flanked by police. Angry exchanges took place between opponents and protestors who chanted “You’re English no more” and “whose streets, our streets” as they marched.
Two protestors donned burqas – traditional Islamic dress – and were seen to imitate Muslim prayer in the middle of a street.