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EDL supporters confront anti-racism protesters in Walsall - as it happened

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | News | Published:

We brought you live updates from Walsall, where the English Defence League was demonstrating this afternoon.

Police keep EDL supporters and anti-racism demonstrators apart in Walsall

Members of the far-right group arrived in the town at 1.30pm carrying St George's Cross flags and chanting 'We're the famous EDL.'

The EDL's visit was widely condemned by civic leaders in Walsall beforehand and anti-racism campaigners organised a counter-protest for this afternoon.

See how the demo unfolded here:

Ward Councillor Aftab Nawaz said ahead of the demo: "I do not know why they choose Walsall but I am standing united with the community here in St Paul's Square to show we are against everything the divisive EDL stand for and their deluded ideologies. We are asking them to get lost."

Thirty one church leaders have also signed a joint letter criticising the EDL and saying the protest will sow division in Walsall.

“Many of our churches within Walsall, whose own congregations are home to people of diverse cultural identities, have been blessed by prosperous relationships with our neighbours of other faiths," the letter said.

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"We would like to encourage people to acknowledge the strength brought to Walsall’s character by its diverse communities.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to make known to those who may feel threatened by the presence of the EDL that they are in our prayers, and that we stand in solidarity with them.

“The message of the EDL is at odds with Jesus’ own efforts to push the boundaries of his society, and show compassion to those who were viewed with suspicion because of their perceived otherness."

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An EDL demonstration in Walsall in 2015

The group used to be led by right-wing activist Tommy Robinson and has been accused of spreading anti-Muslim hate across the UK.

The EDL has 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 in 2015, when 160 protesters descended on Walsall, but said they would return to the town regardless.

The group's original plan had been to march in Wolverhampton.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Deputy Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

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

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