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English Defence League to return to Walsall

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | News | Published:

English Defence League protesters are set to return to the Black Country next month – but have immediately been told to stay away.

The far-right group announced they are heading to Walsall on Saturday, April 7 but have been told by council leader Sean Coughlan ‘this is not the place for the EDL.’

The news came as it was revealed today that Walsall has been chosen as a pilot area for a new Government strategy aimed at improving integration between between communities and ethnic groups.

The EDL group said in a statement that it was planning to march in Wolverhampton but had now switched it to Walsall.

Councillor Coughlan said: “I’m disappointed they have chosen to do it in our town when there are not any issues that they recognise in their view of the world.

“The EDL try to create divisions rather than bringing people together.

"We’re trying to do the opposite. This is not the place for the EDL.”

Mayor of Walsall Marco Longhi said the group’s sole aim was to create divisions in communities.

He said: “One of the things I’ve done since becoming mayor of the town has been working extremely hard in getting to know some of the diverse communities we have in the town.

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“We have got an enormous amount of good will and we should be shouting about that in Walsall.

"Anything that comes into the town and rather than build bridges tries to do exactly the opposite should be resisted as much as possible.”

EDL protestors in the town during a demonstration in 2015

The Mayor said the EDL’s claims about issues in the town were ‘just a ruse to inflame communities’.

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He added: “I absolutely do not welcome the EDL coming to Walsall. I would much rather they didn’t.

“They seem to thrive on wanting to drive division. It’s very unwelcome and I just wish they would find something better to do with their time.” The EDL said the demonstration in Walsall would pass off peacefully and claimed their visit would be supported by people in the town. Nine arrests were made the last time the EDL marched through the town in August 2015.

The group, formerly led by right-wing activist Tommy Robinson, has been accused of spreading anti-Muslim hate in towns and cities across the UK. The EDL has previously made claims about Walsall having a problem with child exploitation and parts of the town being ‘no-go areas’ – both of which have been rubbished by police. EDL leaders complained of rough treatment on their last visit, when 160 protesters descended on Walsall, but have said they will return regardless.

Speaking about the demonstration on EDL Radio, Geoff Mitchell said: “We are still going back. We will peacefully do our demonstration – don’t like it, lump it. We want the numbers and so do the people of Walsall.” West Midlands Police spokesman Craig Hughes said: “We are aware that the English Defence League is considering coming to Walsall on April 7.

“We will be liaising with organisers to clarify their intentions.”

The EDL has also signalled their intention to march in Telford in response to reports of a child sexual exploitation scandal there.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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