Three arrests were made and a policeman was injured during the English Defence League (EDL) march through Oxford city centre on Saturday afternoon.
Two men, a 24-year old from Bristol and a 49-year old from Kidlington, were detained on suspicion of affray, whilst a third man, a 44-year old from Summertown, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence. â€¨
The police officer sustained minor head injuries as a result of a bottle being thrown. Five hundred policemen, including officers from five neighbouring forces and a mounted unit, assisted Thames Valley Police in policing the demonstrations.
About 150 people marched as part of the EDL demonstration, whilst around 300 people took part in a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-demonstration in Bonn Square. Before the march began minor scuffles were reported between the different groups.
The EDL said that they were “protesting against the appalling revelations of another case of Muslim Grooming Gangs prying [sic] on vulnerable English children and the lack of protection given to them by those intrusted [sic] to do so; the local council and Police.”
A UAF open letter said, “We condemn the decision by the EDL to come to Oxford on Saturday 4th April to exploit the suffering of Oxfordshire victims of child sexual exploitation to further its own selfish ends. This is not the first time that the EDL have tried to take advantage of the suffering of exploited children.”â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨â€¨
Superintendent Christian Bunt, LPA Commander for Oxford, commented, “Disruption was kept to a minimum and we are grateful for the support we received from local businesses and communities.â€¨The success of the operation is, in no small part, down to the excellent work before and during the event between the police, our partner agencies, representatives of our communities and the protest organisers.â€¨
“There were a few arrests made over the course of the day, however, the majority of those taking part were well behaved. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our communities, some of whom understandably had concerns about the demonstrations, for their tolerance, cooperation and patience today.â€¨”
In the Oxford City Council’s statement on the Protests, Councillor Bob Price said, “The EDL is a racist organisation, and is not welcome in our city. We regret that the Thames Valley Police declined to ban this march and that it will cause substantial disruption for visitors, shoppers and bus travellers on a popular and busy holiday weekend.
“We also regret the massive cost that it will impose on the budget of the Thames Valley Police which is already under severe strain because of the cuts imposed by the Government.
“We strongly endorse the right to demonstrate and to assembly, but these rights must be qualified in respect of organisations which explicitly seek to promote the criminal offence of racial hatred or to instil division in our communities.
“Oxford is a diverse city with excellent relations between people of widely varied national and ethnic backgrounds. This is a crude attempt to attack the good name of a whole community on the basis of crimes committed by a group of vile individuals, from a variety of backgrounds.”
OUSU condemned the march in a statement realeased earlier in the week stating, “OUSU condemns the EDL and its views. Muslims are a valued part of our community and the lies and violence with which the EDL target them and their faith are unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with Muslim students and residents of Oxford who may be adversely affected by the march.
“We recognise the risk posed by the march to the welfare of students who are in Oxford. People of all faiths and ethnicities should be welcome in Oxford, and the presence of the EDL is a barrier to this. As far as OUSU is concerned, the EDL is not welcome in Oxford.”
The Oxford Islamic Society likewise condemned the march in their statement, commenting, “Islam is the faith of almost three million Britons and the EDL’s rhetoric of hate and division flies in the face of Islam as understood by the almost three million Britons.
“There are up to 500 people who are expected to attend the March so we would just like to ask anyone who will be in Oxford on Saturday to be cautious, sensible and try to stay away from the town centre if possible. Most importantly, remember to place your trust in Allah (SWT) and seek His protection. A perfect Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands mankind is safe, and a true emigrant is one who flees from what God has forbidden.
“For those who want to take a more active stance, there will be an interfaith circle organized as a counter to the EDL. This will be at midday, outside the shop ‘Lush’ on Saturday.”
The EDL march began at Oxford train station at about 2pm on Saturday and ended up outside St. Aldate’s police station.â€¨ Police temporarily closed Queen’s Street and St. Aldate’s as the march passed through, causing some traffic problems. The EDL demonstrators left the city at about 5pm.