11th Dec, 2016

Far-right group Pegida to stage first UK protest in Solihull borough

Solihull Editorial 25th Jan, 2016 Updated: 24th Oct, 2016

A FAR right-wing group, founded by the former English Defence League (EDL) leader, is set to stage its first protest in Solihull borough, police have confirmed.

Pegida UK will host a ‘silent protest’ against ‘mass immigration and the islamification of the west’ at the Birmingham International Business Park, near Birmingham International train station, on Saturday, February 6.

The group, which describes itself on its official Facebook page as ‘a non-racist, non-violent group’, is a branch of the far-right German campaign group and was set up by former English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson.

In a bid to prevent the drink-fueled violence that tarred EDL protests, organisers have banned participants from drinking alcohol or covering their faces.

While the precise time of the demonstration is yet to be confirmed, West Midlands Police was forced to confirm the venue of the march after reports it would take place ‘in the city’ sparked concern among residents.

Solihull Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Alex Murray, reassured the public that the force was ‘vastly experienced’ in dealing with similar protests in Birmingham, Dudley, Solihull and Walsall – most of which having passed off without incident.

He added: “Organisers have told us they are planning a peaceful, silent march from the train station to the protest site.

“It is not clear how many people will take part but we are continually monitoring the intelligence picture to understand the scale of the event.

“So far around 350 Pegida supporters have indicated they intend to participate. There is nothing at this stage to suggest there is a significant risk of disorder but the public can rest assured we will take swift action against anyone committing criminal offences.”

There will be a highly visible police presence, including protest liaison officers, on the day including police resources on standby in the event of trouble.

The policing operation also includes plans to manage any potential counter protests from opposition groups.

Chief Supt Murray added: “People often pose the question: ‘Why don’t you ban the protest?’

“However, the right to protest is something that is enshrined in law and the police have a positive duty to protect and not apply restrictions that are disproportionate.

“We cannot ban protests because they are a static assembly of people and, as such, are legal as long as they are peaceful and within the law.

“Equally, police do not have the power to ban any marches; any decision to prevent a march from taking place would be agreed by the secretary of state ? and only in the most extreme circumstances ? on the request of the police and local authority.”