The route for the English Defence League’s (EDL) march through the centre of Cambridge on Saturday has been revealed, as well as the route for the counter-demonstration taking place on the same day by the Cambridge wing of the anti-racist group, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), and the Cambridge Trade Union Council (TUC).
According to the EDL division’s website, the group accuse “Islamic terrorists” of having Cambridge “under their thumb” and are marching in particular to oppose the building of a new mosque on Mill Road, designs for which go before the City Council on Wednesday. The East Anglia division of the anti-Muslim group have been handing out flyers this week outside Cambridge shops and pubs, including the Osborne Arms and the Emperor, both on Hills Road. The EDL march on Saturday will coincide with Cambridge’s “Big Weekend” – a multicultural summer festival taking place on Parker’s Piece.
Having gathered on Queen’s Backs at 1.30pm, the EDL procession will start at 2pm on Silver Street by Queen’s College, and proceed past the University Pitt Building onto Pembroke Street. Having passed the New Museums Site, the protest will then turn into Corn Exchange Street and advance into Guildhall Street and up Bene’t Street, before turning left at the Corpus Christi clock onto King’s Parade, passing St Catharine’s College before finishing back on Silver Street.
The protest is expected to end by 4pm, and will be escorted by police throughout. The march route conspicuously avoids Mill Road, the proposed site of the new mosque, and police will be monitoring both the arrivals and departures of EDL members by bus and train, to ensure no breakaway demonstrations are held off-route. Similar protests by regional EDL branches will also be taking place on Saturday in Middlesbrough, Halifax and Plymouth.
Meanwhile, support for the counter-march by the UAF and the TUC is “snowballing” according to anti-EDL campaigners. Counter-protesters will meet at 11am at the Cambridge City Council’s Guildhall where they will be escorted by police on a march at 11.45am along Market Street, Sidney Street, St John’s Street, Market Square, Sussex Street, King Street, New Square, Fitzroy Street, Burleigh Street, Norfolk Street, Gwydir Street and Mill Road. The route ought to ensure that EDL and UAF/TUC factions are kept separate to prevent the outbreak of violence that has, in the past, characterised similar counter-demonstrations in other English cities. Following the march, the TUC and UAF will gather at Petersfield, near Hughes Hall. The assembly will finish at 3pm.
An online “unity statement” of opposition to the EDL Cambridge march entitled “We are Cambridge”, which urges people to attend the UAF/TUC counter-demonstration and cites Cambridge as a “multiracial, multicultural and multi-faith community”, has received a host of signatures by local councillors, community leaders, trade unionists and musicians.
Among the signatories is Richard Howitt, MEP for Cambridgeshire, who will be the keynote speaker at Saturday’s counter-rally. In a message to an anti-EDL public meeting in the Unitarian Church Hall on Emmanuel Street on Tuesday night, he said: “Long after the EDL have got back on their buses home, we will continue to celebrate all the diversity of faith, race, nationality, sexuality and background which makes Cambridge such a fabulous place for you and me to live in with our families. We will spread a message of hope to ensure that fear and violence does not win the day in Cambridge.”
Inspector Robin Sissons of Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement: “At this stage we are unable to estimate the numbers expected to attend the protest, however, we will ensure there will be sufficient resources deployed around the city to ensure minimal disruption and maintain public safety. While those taking part in the protest will be allowed to express opinion and protest peacefully, we will not tolerate violence, incitement to hatred or other criminal activity from anyone.”
Image: Naomi O’Leary