Sheffield EDL march response ‘justified’

The English Defence League held a rally in Sheffield, protesting against plans to turn The Pheasant pub, on Barnsley Road at Sheffield Lane Top, into a mosque. Our picture shows the rally in progress.
The English Defence League held a rally in Sheffield, protesting against plans to turn The Pheasant pub, on Barnsley Road at Sheffield Lane Top, into a mosque. Our picture shows the rally in progress.
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Sheffield has been left counting the cost of the huge police response to a demonstration by the right-wing English Defence League – but the officer in charge of the operation says the plans were successful.

More than 600 people gathered at Sheffield Lane Top for a rally by the EDL and a counter protest organised by United Against Fascism and One Sheffield Many Cultures.

Superintendent Colin McFarlane, from South Yorkshire Police, said around 1,200 officers were drafted in on Saturday, including backup from other forces around the North of England.

Last week The Star revealed the bill for policing the rally could total around £800,000.

Just four arrests were made, but chanting EDL supporters needed to be held back initially when they rushed towards police lines. Officers with riot shields were brought in, as well as police on horseback, to prevent further disorder.

“We’re pleased with how it went,” said Supt McFarlane.

“A relatively small number of arrests were made, and we’re happy that the city returned to its usual peaceful nature shortly afterwards. The dust settled quite quickly.”

Police said around 400 EDL supporters, with 250 involved in the counter-protest. Two people were arrested for being drunk and disorderly, one for criminal damage and another for possessing cannabis.

Roads around Sheffield Lane Top were closed as the EDL group walked from Parson Cross to Elm Lane, where they were contained by police in front of a row of shops.

The counter demonstration was held further away on Hatfield House Lane.

“There were small isolated pockets of disorder, but what we planned to do was keep it contained in a tight area,” Supt McFarlane said.

There was a heavy police presence throughout north Sheffield on Saturday. As well as officers from South Yorkshire, backup was drafted in from other forces including Greater Manchester, Humberside, Merseyside and Northumbria.

Supt McFarlane said: “Part of the challenge was that we had imprecise information as to where people would meet, which pubs they would go to and so on. We were there both as eyes and ears, and to reassure communities that they were being protected.

“We have always got to police the threat, that’s the way we have to operate. There will be suggestions that we weren’t needed, but we were – I’d simply ask what the consequences would have been if we hadn’t.”