“LET’S make this a peaceful protest”.
That is the message from police and council bosses as they prepare for tomorrow’s English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism demonstrations on Blackpool’s Golden Mile.
Police chief Chief Supt Richard Debicki says the top priority on the day is the safety of residents, visitors, demonstrators and counter demonstrators and maintaining business as usual in the resort.
He said: “I believe we have given ourselves every opportunity to ensure a peaceful protest.
“We have worked hard with organisers of the demonstrations, laying down ground rules for them and making sure they know what’s expected from them on the day.
“We have placed restrictions around the demonstrations in terms of the sites and timings and we will deal firmly with any crime or disorder.
“We anticipate minimal disruption to daily life for the vast majority of the town though clearly people will see an increased police presence. We appreciate there may be some concerns about this event but we would encourage people to go about their daily business as usual.”
The demonstrations will be commanded by three of Lancashire Constabulary’s most experienced senior officers.
Asst Chief Con Andy Cooke, who has more than 25 years experience as a police officer, will be in overall command on the day.
He will be assisted by Chief Supt Chris Bithell and divisional commander Chief Supt Richard Debicki.
The EDL will hold their protest on the public headland close to the South Pier and the UAF on the public headline close to the Central Pier.
The police and council have been speaking to business and community leaders and have handed letters to residents, businesses, taxi and landau owners to provide reassurance.
Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for equality and diversity, said: “Everyone has a right to a peaceful protest but it’s our job, as the council, to work alongside the police to ensure that the event is well managed and doesn’t impact on other people in the town whether that be residents, visitors or businesses.”
And Howard Lewis, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, said: “I’m glad the necessary steps have been taken to ensure visitors can enjoy their time here with minimal disruption.”
Reports from both demonstrations in a late edition of Saturday’s Gazette and visit www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk during the protest for all the latest.