EDL protests’ blue line gets wider

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POLICE officers are being drafted into Blackpool from other forces to deal with thousands of protesters expected this weekend.

Force chiefs hope the high presence of officers will offer reassurance to residents and tourists while the English Defence League (EDL) and United Against Fascism (UAF) hold protests in the town.

Chief Supt Chris Bithell, of Lancashire Police, said: “A significant number of officers, including mounted patrols, from the whole county as well as Merseyside, West Yorkshire and Cumbria will be involved in the operation this weekend.

“Organisers from both groups have told us they intend to hold peaceful and lawful demonstrations.

“We want Blackpool to be Blackpool on a bank holiday weekend when families come to enjoy the attractions.”

Between 1,500 and 2,000 EDL protesters and 100 members from UAF are expected.

UAF will hold their protest at the public headland near Central Pier while the EDL demonstration is on the headland at South Pier.

EDL members, who say they are protesting against the police handling of the inquiry into missing Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes, are due to gather near Britannia Place at 10am before setting off for a short march along the Promenade to the headland where a demonstration will be held from 12.45pm to 2pm.

Police will meet protesters arriving in coaches off the M55 as well as arrivals at Blackpool North and South railway stations.

Blackpool’s tram service, which is being extended to Little Bispham on Friday, will be affected during the EDL protest.

Dave Hislop, engineering director for Blackpool Transport, said: “We will be operating a service to the Pleasure Beach up until 11.30am on Saturday morning.

“From then we will only be operating between Little Bispham and North Pier until the area is clear to go back to the Pleasure Beach around 3.30pm to 4pm.

“There are no plans to close the Promenade so people will still be able to use the bus service 1A.”

- The EDL has asked us to point out they are not an anti-Asian protest group as suggested in our report “Takeaway boss guilty” on Friday, May 21. They also wish to make it clear they were not responsible for vandalism at Mr Beanz kebab shop on Dickson Road.