Half-a-million-pound cost to police right-wing march in Bristol
POLICING the far right English Defence League's upcoming march through Bristol will cost tax payers £500,000 and involve 1,000 police officers coming from as far away as Yorkshire.
Supporters of the EDL, which describes itself as an anti-Islamist group, are due to march from Redcliffe Wharf to Queen Square at 1pm on July 14.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary yesterday released details of how it planned to police the march and any counter-protests that may take place.
Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, left, told the Post that around 1,000 police officers would be drafted in from a range of forces, including from Yorkshire, Wales, the Midlands and the south west.
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He emphasised that the estimated £500,000 bill for policing the march, which includes the price of drafting in officers from other areas, would come from the force's budget, part of which is paid by local tax payers, and not from central Government.
Mr Bangham said there would be a mix of "community neighbourhood style" policing, as well as dog handlers, mounted police on horseback and a large number of specialist public order officers.
He said the public order officers would be deployed in normal uniform but would have riot equipment close to hand should violence break out. The police helicopter will also be deployed, providing officers with live footage of the march and any counter protests.
Officers will begin patrolling the city centre the day before the march and the operation will run right through the weekend.
No official arrangements have yet been agreed with any groups planning anti-EDL protests and Mr Bangham appealed for any organisers to come forward.
"As far as we know there will be no counter protest in the city centre," he said. "Counter groups have either not come forward or do not want to inform us of their intentions.
"We will have officers in the city centre area so that we can respond should a counter-protest begin.
"As soon as we see any mass movement start up we will make sure that they do not have access to the EDL, nor to the gay pride event happening on College Green."
He refused to give names of groups approached by the police, but said officers had been attending community meetings in which it was known counter protests would be discussed.
"What we are trying to do is to treat everyone fairly," he said.
"We continue to try to make contact with the counter groups.
"I want to put the message out to other organisers, that you must, for the safety of others, tell us what you are planning to do.
"If you do not then you must not be surprised at the policing response on the day."
The Post has previously been told by We Are Bristol, a group of "trade unions, community groups and anti-racist organisations", that it will hold an anti-EDL demonstration at the fountains opposite the Hippodrome between 11am and 4pm.
Mr Bangham estimated the amount of EDL members turning up in Bristol could be anything from the low hundreds to more than 1,000, although organiser Mickey Bayliss, left, previously told the Post around 500 members were expected to join the march.
It is estimated that the number of people taking part in counter protests could reach more than 1,000 – meaning that more than 2,000 protesters could congregate in Bristol.
Police will escort the EDL into the city and out by around 4pm, after speeches have taken place at an assembly in Queen Square.
Mr Bangham refused to reveal which mode of transport members would be using but said provision had been made for arrivals by coach and train.
There have also been concerns that the EDL's march would clash with the Bristol Pride's We Are: Proud lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender event, which is taking place on College Green.
Mr Bangham said the event would have its own police commander and officers – keeping both events segregated from each other.
Asked why the march had not been banned, Mr Bangham said: "We are lucky to live in a democratic society.
"We, as the police, do not organise how the public express their views.
"They have the right to march and assemble, even if it causes problems for other people.
"Our job is to facilitate a peaceful protest."
Mr Bangham went on to say that the police had powers under the public order act to impose restrictions on the march.
He also said that banning the march was a complicated process in which the police would have to apply to the city council, which would then have to apply to the Home Secretary, although he said that these powers were still open to him, if he deemed necessary.
"All evidence would show if we can work with groups it will give the police control and with public safety in mind, that is our top priority," he said.
"We'd prefer that than to ban it and lose control, and then have an unregulated assembly all across the city."
Mr Bangham also wanted to reassure residents and traders that Bristol would be "open as usual" on the day of the march.
"We expect that with any event in the city there will always be a degree of disruption – our job is to minimise that."
He emphasised that the EDL march would not stray into the city centre shopping area.
"We want the public to be reassured that they can come into the city centre – park their car, go shopping, go for a meal in a restaurant, without getting caught up in the march," he said.
"They may see some barriers but if they don't wish to have anything to do with it then it will be easy to stay on the outside.
"At no time will we tolerate any violence or disorder – we will have no tolerance at all for any violent behaviour."