Police operation to keep peace as English Defence League marchers protest in Portsmouth

FLASH-POINT EDL protesters outside the Jami Mosque in Victoria Road North, Southsea, in November 2010.     ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (103684-9)
FLASH-POINT EDL protesters outside the Jami Mosque in Victoria Road North, Southsea, in November 2010. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (103684-9)
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POLICE say they will be fully prepared for a planned protest which will see 1,500 English Defence League supporters march through Portsmouth.

Officers are putting together a detailed plan to help ensure the protest passes peacefully.

But they say they will take swift action to bring any lawbreakers to justice.

Full details of the plan, named Operation Buscot, have not yet been revealed.

But officers are working with the EDL and the community, including religious groups and residents, to offer reassurance ahead of the event on July 16.

The EDL, which insists it is not a far right or racist group, has carried out several events which it says are protests against Muslim extremism.

Marches elsewhere in the county have seen tension between EDL members and race equality campaigners.

Portsmouth’s EDL branch has stated that it wants the march through the city to pass without trouble.

The vow comes as 10,000 leaflets advertising the march are set to be distributed.

Superintendent Rick Burrows is heading Operation Buscot, and said: ‘We are developing a full operational plan which is focused on keeping everybody safe, facilitating the group’s right to a peaceful protest and making sure the community is as safe as possible.

‘We are making appropriate contingency plans around resourcing levels and special measures we are going to use.

‘We want to reassure the community that police will apply an appropriate policing plan, but critical for us is to protect the community.’

A spokesman for the English Defence League’s Portsmouth branch, said: ‘We are a realist group.

‘We are not racists, we are not violent, but we are no longer silent.’

He added: ‘We don’t want violence – we want to do a march.

‘If people leave us alone to do our march there will be no conflict.

‘We are working closely with the police to have a peaceful demonstration that is not racist.’

Pompey to play Chelsea on demo day

POLICE are planning for every eventuality as a raft of events coincide on the day of the English Defence League’s march.

The 1,500-strong EDL protest on July 16 will come on the same day as Pompey’s home clash against Chelsea in a Fratton Park friendly.

Some religious groups are organising prayer vigils to coincide with the march.

Meanwhile hundreds of students are set to attend the University of Portsmouth’s graduation ball.

Officers drafted in for Operation Buscot, working with Portsmouth City Council, will keep a close watch on all activity in the city on the day.

However they say their priority is to ensure the events pass peacefully.

The English Defence League says its protest is not football-related and will be over by the time the match kicks off at Fratton Park. As part of the protest, a wreath will also be laid in Portsmouth in support of British troops.

A spokesman for the Portsmouth branch of the EDL said: ‘This is nothing to do with football. We just want to support our troops.’