Sheffield leaders tell EDL protesters: ‘Stay out of our city’

The EDL protest in Rotherham
The EDL protest in Rotherham
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Sheffield today sends a clear message to English Defence League protesters set to march through the streets tomorrow: “Stay out of our city.”

Hundreds of right-wing campaigners will take part in the demonstration in the wake of child sex exploitation revelations in South Yorkshire.

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But Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who will join a Sheffield Unite Against Fascism and One Sheffield Many Cultures counter-protest tomorrow, said the EDL will get nowhere in the city.

He said: “I’m sorry that the EDL are coming to try to stir up trouble here.

“Over decades we’ve welcomed people from all over the world who’ve come to work, study or escape persecution. We’re stronger together and attempts to set people against each other will fail.”

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings also led calls for the EDL to ‘stay away’.

He said: “Another march in South Yorkshire by the EDL is unwelcome and unhelpful.

“If the EDL seriously wants to help the victims and survivors of child abuse they should listen to them, as I do, and do the compassionate thing and stay away.

“Anything else is just mischief-making.”

Dr Billings has said it costs the force about £500,000 to control each individual EDL demonstration.

But an EDL spokesman said: “Don’t talk to us about the financial cost of the demonstrations while the far more important human cost of the abuse continues.

“If the police and officials had done the job they were paid for there would be no EDL demonstration in Sheffield.”

South Yorkshire Police have confirmed it will have an increased presence in the city for the protest, which is expected to run from 12.30pm to 3pm.

The EDL group will gather in Tudor Square at 1pm and march to South Street Park. There will be a separate protest group on Fargate from 12.30pm to 2pm.

Gold Commander Chief Supt Rachel Barber said: “We’ll do all that we can to keep any disruption to a minimum by operating rolling road closures. This means we only close the road moments before the march passes through and re-open immediately after.

“The city centre will remain open as usual and we hope people continue to enjoy everything it has to offer.”

A Sheffield Council spokesman added: “Sheffield is an inclusive city committed to fairness and equality. Extra measures are being taken to keep disruption to a minimum.”

The UAF’s counter-protest will assemble at the top of Fargate from 11am, with a rally beginning at 12 noon.