Police leave has been cancelled after the English Defence League announced a demonstration in Rotherham on Saturday will be ‘the biggest’ in years.
So far 1,200 EDL supporters have announced that they plan to attend Saturday’s demo, which has been organised in the wake of a damning report which laid bare a child sex abuse scandal in the town.
The report, by Professor Alexis Jay, claimed 1,400 children were abused by largely Pakistani men over a 16 year period, with authorities failing to tackle the issue because of sensitivities over the ethnicity of the perpetrators.
EDL members have been camped outside Rotherham’s Main Street police station since the publication of the report, which revealed police chiefs knew of the issue but failed to act.
Now they are gearing up for a huge demonstration in the town, which is expected to attract supporters from across the country.
Unite Against Fascism plans to host a counter demonstration on the same day.
Police chiefs are in discussions with the groups to establish the numbers expected to attend.
Last Saturday Britain First staged an unannounced march through the town, attracting around 250 supporters.
South Yorkshire Police said it went ahead without any issues.
Extra police officers from other forces are to be sent to Rotherham on Saturday to boost numbers on the ground in a bid to keep rival groups apart.
The EDL has announced that Saturday’s town centre march will begin at 1pm.
Some traders in Rotherham expect to close on Saturday, claiming customers will stay away from the town because of safety fears.
Businessman Michael Green, who runs Churchills Bistro in All Saints Square, said trade has already been affected since the publication of the Jay report two weeks ago.
“If the barricades go up on crown safety grounds, which I expect they will, then we will close for the day,” he said.
“The march will stop people coming into town because they won’t know what to expect.”
A police spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police is continuing its discussions with the organisers and other groups to ensure the event runs safely.”