Tensions run high as EDL ‘ban the burka’ march is met by protests in Hartlepool

MARCH: Police controlled the crowds as emotions ran high
MARCH: Police controlled the crowds as emotions ran high

A BOISTEROUS demonstration by a far-right group over its views to “ban the burka” passed off without any arrests – despite tensions running high at times.

Around 150 members of the North East English Defence League (EDL) group met at The Clarendon pub in Tower Street, on Saturday for a protest march through the town centre against the use of the Muslim burkha in Britain.

The singing, shouting, and chanting procession left Tower Street around 12.30pm and marched up Park Road, into York Road, and then Victoria Road, where they all planned to congregate in front of the war memorial in Victory Square.

But some members of anti-fascist group Hartlepoool Against Racism – who were holding a static demonstration in Church Square at the same time – managed to get onto the steps of the war memorial in time for the arrival of the EDL group.

And as the two rival groups hurled insults toward each other a cordon of police officers were forced to halt the EDL group, while a team of cops ushered away the determined anti-fascists.

Once the EDL group got onto Victory Square, speeches were made by leaders of the EDL and the Scottish Defence League, before they were escorted back to Tower Street by police.

On the way though – at the crossing in Stockton Street near to Timlins Opticians – tensions between the two groups rose once again and they began shouting and chanting at each other forcing police to hold the groups back once again.

By 2pm the crowds had dispersed but a police presence remained in the town centre as officers waited for the arrival and movement of Portsmouth and Hartlepool Football Club fans for the game at Victoria Park.

Speaking after the demonstrations, Chief Superintendent Ciaron Irvine said: “Thankfully there were no arrests as a result of the demonstrations we had today.

“We had the North East Infadels carrying out a procession and also a static demonstration which lasted between about 12pm and 2pm, and then we had a counter demonstration from the Hartlepool Against Racism group, which ran from 11am until about 1pm.

“That was a static demonstration in Church Square.”

He added: “There were about 150 people involved in the procession and we had a rolling road closure to minimise disruption. For about 10 or 15 minutes during the parade we had fairly heavy traffic congestion.

“After the procession there was the static demonstration, and following that the crowd dispersed with many leaving Hartlepool. There were about 30 to 40 people left from the EDL group and we kept a low level police presence on those.

“Following that we moved onto the football match.

“Our officers enjoyed today, as events like this test our skills and we’re pleased it all went well. Clearly there’s been a lot of shouting and singing and noise around the town centre.”

Chief Supt Irvine said all the officers at the events today were Cleveland Police officers with the use of several vehicles from Durham Constabulary at no cost.

He said that by using the force’s own officers, rather than drafting in those from other constabularies has saved the taxpayer between £20,000 and £30,000.