Dudley council criticises far-right group for going ahead with protest at abandoned development
The English Defence League’s summer of protests to target Muslim communities is to continue with a demonstration against a “super mosque”, even though the development is no longer going ahead.
The far-right group will return to Dudley next Saturday to demonstrate against the abandoned mosque and community centre project. The council has branded the protest “pointless” and a “waste of taxpayers’ money” as police will be required to ensure safety.
A plea from the council for the organisation to cancel the demonstration came as an EDL protester appeared in court today for putting a pig’s head on the wall of Dudley central mosque.
Anne Millward, leader of the council, said: “The EDL’s unnecessary visits, which often result in major disruption, violence and public disorder, cost the taxpayer and local communities thousands of pounds.
“We are opposed to this proposed event and call on the organisers to cancel this pointless waste of taxpayers’ money.”
But a promotional video by the Bristol division of the EDL said: “The Dudley Muslim Association is determined to force this mosque on the people of Dudley … The EDL will keep coming back until it is scrapped.”
The previous protest against the mosque cost the council over £150,000, damaged local business revenue and resulted in 12 people being arrested.
A council spokesman said: “Council bosses have made it clear that outside extremists can make no contribution to local decisions and reminded the EDL that the plans for a mosque on Hall Street are not currently being pursued.
“The EDL has opposed the former proposal for a mosque but the council has reiterated the fact that the authority and the Dudley Muslim Association have agreed to pursue an alternative site, making the EDL’s visit pointless.”
Margot James, the MP for Stourbridge, near Dudley, wrote to the Home Office asking that police powers be extended to enable them to ban all forms of protest on the grounds of public order when they have a case to do so. She says she is keen to maintain freedom of expression but “a loophole that allows the EDL to call their activity a rally not a march, so as to escape a potential ban, should be closed”.
The league has demonstrated in Newcastle and Bradford but cancelled a planned protest in Tower Hamlets, London, after one of its leaders, Tommy Robinson, told the East London Advertiser it would be a “suicide mission”.
An EDL protester, Kevin Smith, has been given a suspended eight-week prison sentence for putting a pig’s head on the wall of Dudley central mosque in the Castle Hill area of the town on 29 May.
Police believe Smith, 52, of Brierley Hill, was on his way to the Newcastle demonstration when the act took place.He was arrested on 2 June and has been found guilty of religiously aggravated intentional harassment at Dudley magistrates court. Muslims regard pigs as unclean.
Smith was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and among the conditions imposed was an order that he stay out of the Castle Hill area.
Muslims account for about 2.5% of the population of Dudley. The council says it is exploring the possibility of developing the existing Dudley central mosque as an alternative to the scrapped Hall Street scheme.
Unite Against Fascism has pledged to hold a counter-demonstration next Saturday after protesting against the EDL in April by holding a multi-faith celebration.