Grantham will be bustling with protesters and police officers later on today (Saturday) as a double demonstration gets under way.
Members of the English Defence League are planning a march against a plan to build an Islamic community centre in the town.
They will face a counter-protest by the Grantham Solidarity Network, which opposes EDL views.
The EDL will meet at the Blue Bull pub in Westgate at noon. They claim 250-300 people will gather but Lincolnshire Police Ch Insp Pat Coates told the Journal he believes the figure will more likely be 100-150.
At 1.30pm they will march along Wharf Road and on to St Peter’s Hill, where a static rally will take place on the green.
Just a stone’s throw away will be the Grantham Solidarity Network, which will gather at 1pm in Avenue Road.
**You can follow the events here on the website, at facebook.com/granthamjournal of by following @GranthamJournal on Twitter**
According to Ch Insp Coates shoppers should not be put off coming into town during the demos.
Although there will be a throng of 245 police officers and up to 400 protesters in St Peter’s Hill, he expects the event to pass peacefully.
He said: “Everything we’ve got indicates that it’s going to be peaceful and there’s no evidence to suggest any other, but if there is trouble we’ll be there and we have a contingency.”
However, there is a risk that others with anti-Islamic views will descend on Grantham, worsened by spread of news through social networking sites and making it difficult to predict the numbers involved.
Officers, some of whom will be drafted in from neighbouring forces, will be keeping the two parties apart to avoid any clashes, and also manning road closures along the march route and in Avenue Road and in St Peter’s Hill between the green and Guildhall.
Although he could not put a figure on the cost of policing the protests, he said it would be “significant”.
He added: “We have a legal obligation and so we have to facilitate a legal protest.”
The two demos are centred around a proposal to build an Islamic community centre in Mowbeck Way. Once the far-right EDL announced its intention to protest against the plan, the Grantham Solidarity Network formed.
The Journal was unable to get a comment from the EDL this week.
However, a post on its Lincolnshire division Facebook page on Thursday read: “Morning infidels, 2 days to go until the big one, Grantham demo here we come, lets show grantham that it doesn’t need mosques and lets show lincolnshire council the big finger when it comes to approving mosques. Have a good day and stay safe, No Surrender!”
Asst Ch Cons Lee Freeman will be in overall charge in Grantham tomorrow.
He said: “Our overarching intent is business as usual. We are not expecting any problems or disorder but should any occur they will be swiftly dealt with.”