The Failed EDL March on a Cambridge Mosque
Muhammad ‘Abd al-Haqq
A group of the English Defence League (EDL) marchers were met with the shouts of a small group of counter protesters from an earlier 1,500 strong demonstration by Unite Against Fascism. After a relatively peaceful march by the EDL through the city center Saturday in Cambridg, in which the plan was to descend on a masjid on Mawson Road, scuffles with police broke out along with bottle-throwing. Members of the EDL, who arrived in coaches from across the country to Queens’ Green, also began fighting amongst themselves. After the march, members of the group attempted to reach the mosque in Mawson Road, off Mill Road. However, they were stopped by dozens of police officers who then threw up a wall of steel to protect the scores of Muslims and their supporters. And at around 3pm, Muslims manning a community stall in Sidney Street were attacked by a group who picked up copies of Korans from the stall and hurled them at the victims – one of whom had his spectacles broken. More than 650 officers and staff from six forces, including Cambridgeshire, have been praised for handling the relatively peaceful protests.
A total of seven people, all men, have been arrested.
Amjed Sheikh, a Muslim leader, said: “The police have done a great job today. We are a peaceful people and we came to live in Cambridge because the people here accept us no matter what people from the outside who have come here today say.”
Richard Howitt MEP, who was a keynote speaker at the start of the counter-protest, praised police and described the emotional scenes in Mill Road when more than 1,000 anti-EDL protesters marched along the street.
He said: “I would say that many of the counter-protesters stayed around Petersfield thinking to protect the mosque but when all is said and done it was really the police who did a fantastic job throughout the day.
“As we all walked along Mill Road, shopkeepers were all standing outside their shops handing out samosas and drinks. I had a tear in my eye.”
Insp Robin Sissons said: “Cambridge residents are familiar with and generally supportive of protest activity and this was evident on Saturday.
“Their tolerance combined with the joint operation by police and partner agencies meant the protests were largely peaceful with only minor disorder and some minor disruption to residents, visitors and businesses in the city.
“The well-established community and partnership-based relationships were also particularly beneficial in planning for, and during, the operation.
“It was heartening to hear that members of the community who reported tension before the protests, then praised the tone and nature of the policing operation after it was complete.”
Commentary on the failed march and protest intentions: