AN URGENT call for help has been made to the government to protect Nuneaton from falling victim to the English Defence League again.
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council leader, councillor Dennis Harvey wants the Home Secretary Theresa May to take action as the town has been targeted by the controversial group more than any other place in the entire country.
A letter, signed by Cllr Harvey, Cllr Peter Gilbert, the leader of the opposing Conservatives at the Town Hall, and chief executive Christine Kerr, has been sent to the corridors of power in Parliament asking for help following the most recent demonstration and march.
“Saturday saw the fourth visit of the English Defence League to our borough, a visit that brought nothing but fear, problems and enormous cost to local residents,” Cllr Harvey said.
“From what I can gather, we have now been targeted more than any other town in Britain.
“The borough council, along with the county council, has asked the Home Secretary to act in regard to the EDL. The local authorities, nor the police, can continue to deal with this problem alone. Nuneaton and Bedworth is a harmonious community, where people of all cultures and backgrounds get along well together. Attempts to disrupt this and divide us will not win, but we cannot do this alone. “The government must act to protect small towns such as ours.”
As featured in yesterday’s News, businesses and market traders are now counting the cost of the demonstration and march.
Early indications are that around half a million pound in revenue was lost on the day, but that shocking figure could rise further.
Despite some businesses choosing to close and others shutting up shop by the afternoon, there were stores and market stall holders who attempted to trade throughout the day.
Their determination to ensure it was `business as usual,’ as well as the huge policing effort to protect the town has been praised by Cllr Harvey.
“Can I pass on my thanks to those residents and to the market traders, shopkeepers and others who decided to stand firm and not let people from elsewhere ‘win’,” he said.
“Our local police deserve nothing but praise for the way in which they handled this march and dealt with the many hundreds of people who came in to our borough to disrupt daily life.”
Chiefs at Warwickshire Race Equality Partnership (WREP) joined the plaudits, particularly those who took part in the counter demonstration in the Church Street car park.
“A big thankyou to the communities of Nuneaton, who have shown great strength and courage, and listened to community leaders to stand together against far right parties and not to rise to provocation and enticement,” said Helal Shahid, WREP chief executive.
“I am pleased that Saturday passed peacefully, nevertheless, anyone who does need support, help or advice on how to report any racist incident can do so through one of our reporting centres.”
The huge policing operation almost certainly stopped simmering tensions boiling over into violence moments after the EDL’s official march had started at just after 1pm.
It came to a nasty flashpoint as the march came past the Church Street car park where around 150 Nuneaton Anti-Facist Alliance (NAFA)and associated group members were staging a peaceful static, counter demonstration.
Cans, bottles, stones and fireworks were thrown, and angry words and chants were exchanged between the rival protesters.
It came to an ugly climax when both sides surged towards each other and police horses, dogs and riot officers had to rush-in to keep the two apart.
The march then proceeded around onto Vicarage Street, past the Justice Centre, down into Bond Gate and then back up Wheat Street and into the Justice Walk car park, where an EDL rally was held.
But the policing operation carried on way after the coaches had arrived to collect the majority of the sympathisers, who came from across the country.
As a result of the huge police presence, seven arrests were made, which led to three people being charged and they are now due to appear before justices at Nuneaton Magistrates Court.
They are Calum Michael Bruce, aged 23 from Hartshill, Nuneaton who was charged with a public order offence.
Kevin Patrick Keegan, aged 44 and from Walsall, who was charged with a public order offence, and Gary Watson, aged 42 from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, who has been charged with being drunk and disorderly.
All three have been released on police bail to appear before Magistrates at the Vicarage Street-based court on Tuesday.
A 17-year-old male from Nuneaton who was arrested for possession of a knife has received a final warning. A 16-year-old male and a 17-year-old male, both from Nuneaton, who were arrested on suspicion of causing affray have been released on police bail.
So has a 21-year-old man from Nottingham, who was arrested on suspicion of robbery. All three have been bailed to appear at the local police station at a later date, pending further police enquiries.