A group formed a fortnight ago to counter the English Defence League march in Grantham today says they are planning a peaceful gathering in support of religious freedom.
One of the organisers, John Morgan, said inside the railings of Abbey Gardens, next to the headquarters of South Kesteven District Council: “We hope to get 100 people today and they will all be from Grantham or at least Lincolnshire, not like the EDL, who are bussing people in from all over the place.”
He continued: “I don’t know how many Muslims there are in Grantham, but I would guess there are fewer Baptists and they have a church. And I guess there are even fewer Jehovah’s Witnesses in this town, but they have a place of worship as well. So why can’t the Muslims have the same? This is about freedom, the freedom of religion.”
Avenue Road has been closed to traffic. There are a number of police vans in front of the iconic Guildhall building, which overlooks St Peter’s Hill and the Sir Isaac Newton statue, the location for the EDL rally at 2pm.
EDL supporters are gathering at the Blue Bull pub on Westgate, where there is a heavy police presence and around 150 onlookers. About 100 metres away, the Saturday street market is operating as usual.
The EDL plan to march along Wharf Road - which has many shops run by foreign nationals - to the centre of town.
EDL regional organiser, Alan Phoenix, from Swineshead, near Boston, said he expected 250-300 people to be on the march.
“I think it will be noisy, but peaceful,” he said. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”
Assistant Chief Constable Lee Freeman is in overall charge of the police operation in Grantham today. He commented: “We are not expecting any problems or disorder, but, should they occur, they will be swiftly dealt with.”