The chief inspector for Lincolnshire Police has issued a statement about the violent disorder in Grantham on Saturday afternoon.
As reported live by the Journal throughout the shocking incident, [http://www.granthamjournal.co.uk/news/shocking-violence-in-grantham-as-unite-against-fascism-and-national-front-collide-1-8111296|supporters of far-right group National Front and Unite Against Fascism clashed in the town centre.}
Two arrests were made and one individual was charged with assaulting a police officer and a public order offence.
Today, chief inspector Simon Outen has released this statement: “Over the weekend many of you will be aware that there was a demonstration in Grantham town centre organised by the National Front, with attendance from members of United Against Facism, which has caused some local concern.
“I’d like to take a moment to talk about this event and demonstrations of this type generally – how we plan for them, what we tell our communities in the lead-up, and how we police them at the time.
“Usually we are made aware of planned marches in advance, especially when they are safe and legal. Early engagement from organisers means we can plan for numbers attending, assess risk and public safety and resource accordingly. This was the case with the Grantham National Front demonstration – we were made aware it was happening, planned our officers and staff who would work to make sure it was a safe event, and monitored the situation right up until it took place.
“It is worth pausing here to mention that under Article 11 of the Human Rights Act everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which applies to protest marches and demonstrations, press conferences, public and private meetings, counter-demonstrations, ‘sit-ins’, motionless protests etc. There is a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate this right and to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations from disruption by others. The right to peaceful assembly can’t be interfered with just because there is disagreement with the views of the protestors or because it is likely to be inconvenient, cause a nuisance, or because there might be friction and exchange between opposing groups.
“In relation to the Grantham demonstration, we had no reason to believe any of this legislation would be breached, nor would it have been appropriate for us to ‘publicise’ the fact that a march was taking place for all of the reasons listed above. While I know and appreciate it was inconvenient to some residents and local shopkeepers, we felt that we were able to police it accordingly and keep communities safe.
“Shortly before the demonstration we were made aware that around 30 members of United Against Facism were intending on staging a counter demonstration – meaning approximately 60 people in total would be involved. We reviewed our plans and adjusted them accordingly. The demonstration lasted around an hour and there was an isolated pocket of disorder, which was swiftly contained by our officers.
“Two people were arrested and one has since been charged in relation to an assault on a police officer and a public order offence. I’m aware some local shops decided to close for periods of time but that was not on police advice as we were keen to minimise disruption to the local community.
“Part of legal demonstrations is that when required to disperse participants do so, and this was the case in Grantham – everybody left peacefully and quickly so the town could go about its daily business again.
“I fully understand that this may have been a concerning incident for local people and I’m sorry if you felt anxious or upset because of this event. Hopefully, explaining some of the run-up to this demonstration and how we plan and police will have helped people understand the background.
“If you still have any concerns please contact your local neighbourhood policing teams, details of which can be found on www.lincspolice.co.uk”