FOUR English Defence League supporters were arrested on Saturday as a protest by the far-right group passed off peacefully.
The four men were arrested for public order offences with two released, one man bailed pending further inquires and the fourth handed a fixed penalty.
No injuries were reported when around 220 members of the controversial group staged a protest in the city centre against Coventry becoming a ‘Muslim ghetto’.
Prior to the protest, Chief Superintendent Danny Long, Commander for Coventry promised there would be sufficient policing efforts to protect Coventry’s ‘proud and diverse’ communities from the EDL and counter protests.
Following Saturday’s events, Ch Supt Long added: “Our plans had been long in the planning and we have worked hard to ensure the protests had minimal impact on business as usual in the city centre.
“There was a large police presence on the ground throughout the day so that we were prepared if there were any issues reported to us but we were confident the protests would take place peacefully.”
New Union Street, Little Park Street and Gosford Street were closed for a short time to allow protestors to walk from The Litten Tree pub to the council house.
The rival groups were kept apart – the EDL at Speaker’s Corner outside the Council House, and the anti-fascist protesters in Broadgate.
The counter-demonstration, organised by anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF), saw people gather underneath the statue of Lady Godiva to protest against the EDL’s presence in Coventry – the city of peace and reconciliation.
Patrick, a spokesperson from UAF who did not want to be identified for fear of repercussions from the far-right group, said Saturday’s counter-demonstration was a ‘both angry and celebratory.’
He added: “The wonderful people of Coventry rose to the occasion on Saturday – showing off how proud our city is of its diversity.
“Our demonstration was not only a celebration of the city, but it was angry and robust in its message against the EDL.
“It was outrageous that the EDL even came and demonstrated here – particularly considering the city’s history.”
Patrick also said he wanted to correct the numbers of counter-protesters police had estimated at the event – arguing there were 250 people consistently throughout the day and around 400 at its peak, rather than 150 people as officers had reported.
“The EDL have never returned to a town or city where there has been a strong counter-demonstration,” Patrick explained.
“In crude terms we outnumbered them and were very loud – some police officers telling me we drowned out the EDL at Speaker’s Corner despite us staying in Broadgate.
“I hope very much they got the message that they are not welcome in Coventry.”