Leader calls for action following tense protests

English Defence League marchers in Fratton Road, Portsmouth
English Defence League marchers in Fratton Road, Portsmouth
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PORTSMOUTH’S council leader has condemned a protest march for causing tension across the city centre.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he wasn’t happy that the English Defence League threw fireworks down terraced streets as they marched against plans for an Islamic free school on Lake Road.

He said residents had to lock their doors and were too afraid to go outside.

The fascist group stirred up trouble as they marched with flags from The Connaught Arms to a patch of land opposite where the Madani Academy is due to be.

Things got even more heated when they turned up because anti-fascist movement Unite Against Fascism was staging a counter protest march on the other side of the road. Cllr Vernon-Jackson plans to talk to the police about what can be done next time to ensure the EDL means it when it says it will have a peaceful protest.

‘To be faced with police in riot gear, police dogs who were clearly wound up and barking, and then people throwing very, very loud things around, that wasn’t a good way of showing off the city to people,’ he said.

‘It doesn’t give people a good impression of our city and for that, I am sorry.

‘That was not a peaceful protest.

‘The EDL had negotiated for a peaceful protest, but throwing firecrackers down through streets where people’s doors come out onto the road is not peaceful, and absolutely not acceptable.’

A wedding was taking place at St Mary’s Church at the time and concerned guests had to cross further up Fratton Road to ensure they got there safely.

One man was arrested for being drunk and disorderly before the protest and another during it for throwing a firework at a female police officer. One resident, who did not want to be named, said: ‘We don’t need all this.

‘This sort of thing encourages violence.’

Richard Lines said he was upset police had made protestors start from the heart of his community.

‘I was on my way out and somebody threw a banger at me and it went off right in front of my bike,’ he said.

‘It was very wrong of the police to allow the march to start from The Connaught Arms.’

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