FENCES will be put up around a city war memorial to stop far right protesters from laying a wreath.
Portsmouth City Council says it will block off the Guildhall Square memorial after the English Defence League (EDL) threatened to ignore the authority’s refusal to allow it access.
Council leader, Lib Dem councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘There is no way we would allow this. It’s totally inappropriate and we have told the EDL they will not be allowed to lay a wreath there. We wouldn’t allow anyone, from the city or outside, to use this memorial, erected in honour of people who died for the country, for purely political purposes. If the Lib Dems wanted to lay a wreath, I’d say no. And we have said no to this.’
The EDL is planning to march through Portsmouth on Saturday, starting and finishing at Victoria Park, on a route which includes Edinburgh Road, Queen Street and Ordnance Row.
It has told the police it does not intend to lay a wreath at the memorial.
But speaking to The News, its representative Paul Ness said: ‘We’re laying a wreath. We will do.
‘The council doesn’t like us, but we just want to be left alone. We want to lay the wreath to remember the people who died for our country. We want a peaceful march and that’s what will happen if we’re left alone. We’ll send in a speaker and six people. They will lay the wreath.’
But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We’re going to fence the memorial off for the day. We don’t want to have to do that, but this would be totally inappropriate. We won’t allow anyone to use the memorial as a political toy.’
Hampshire Constabulary has been working closely with the council and the EDL ahead of the march, as well as reassuring local businesses and community groups.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We’re working with all groups involved in these proposals, and the agreed route doesn’t include laying a wreath or visiting the memorial. The EDL has been co-operative and agreed not to lay a wreath. It hasn’t informed us it intends to, and it won’t be allowed to because the council refused it permission to do so.’
But Mr Ness said: ‘This is a peaceful march and we want to pay our respects. We will lay a wreath.’
Unite Against Fascism protesters have also confirmed they will be in Portsmouth to hold a vigil when the march takes place on Saturday.
Its Portsmouth representative, Simon Magorian, said: ‘We won’t march, because you have to give 16 weeks’ notice. But we will hold a vigil in Guildhall Square.’