Police say they will ensure planned rival protests in Sheffield by the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism are ‘peaceful and within the law’.
Officers have been in discussions with the leaders of both groups ahead of tomorrow’s planned demonstrations when up to 3,000 people are expected.
Meanwhile, a youth pictured waving a black flag bearing the Shahada – similar to flags used by Jihadists – at last Saturday’s demonstration by the same groups, has apologised for any offence caused.
Tommy Robinson, the leader of the English Defence League and who is attending tomorrow, said his members would not be bringing flags and would be holding a ‘peaceful walk to the war memorial in Barker’s Pool to lay a wreath’ in memory of murdered soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby.
Mr Robinson said: “We held 30 demonstrations across the country last weekend to lay wreaths and Sheffield was one of only two places where we were prevented – that is why we are coming back and I will be there. We want to be allowed to show our respects.”
Mr Robinson compared the black flag – flown last week by Muslim demonstrator Shaykhom Omair, aged 25 – to a ‘swastika’ and said police should have stopped it being used.
Mr Omair said: “I just want to apologise to the people if I have caused any offence. I am a Muslim in South Yorkshire and am proud of my background.”
In a statement, South Yorkshire Police – which has cancelled all leave and is drafting in extra officers from other forces – said: “In a democratic society, people have the right to peaceful protest.
“The force fully understands the concerns of local people and businesses.
“We expect any gathering to be peaceful and discourage communities from taking their own action.”
Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, appealed for calm, saying: “This city should not allow hate to divide us.”