Lincolnshire Police have confirmed they are in talks with organisers of a planned demonstration by the English Defence League in Grantham.
A group calling itself Grantham Town EDL plans to protest in the town on Saturday, February 22, from 1pm, against the building of an Islamic community centre in Mowbeck Way, off Alexandra Road.
A police spokesman said talks were under way with organisers but there would be no statement regarding the demonstration until next week.
In response, a group led by Grantham man John Morgan will gather on St Peter’s Hill at 11am, aiming to keep the EDL protesters away from the town centre.
As reported, the Grantham Muslim Community Association submitted an application to build the centre in December, a move which has caused some controversy. An online petition was then set up via change.org by a group calling itself ‘People Of Grantham No Longer Silent’, which has gained 583 signatures.
Mr Morgan, of Harrowby Road, said he hopes local people will join the counter-protest to show their acceptance of other cultures.
He added: “If these people are going to march through our town then everyone should take an interest.
“I’m hoping we will get a large turnout to show they are not welcome.
“I believe in freedom of religion; the planning application is a separate issue. Freedom of religion is very important.”
But District Councillor Ian Selby has reacted in horror and believes any counter-protest would be “playing into the hands of the EDL”, and could see women and children getting seriously hurt if protests turn violent.
He added: “I think it’s a horrendous idea. It’s downright stupidity and will create a battleground on the streets of Grantham. This is a matter for the police.
“We don’t want this on our doorstep, we want to be protecting our people and our community.
“I don’t think the Morgans know what they are doing – there’s potential here for clashes in the streets.”