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Police are continuing to patrol Dudley town centre following two protests this afternoon (Saturday 7 February).
Around 600 supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) gathered in Priory Road while around 50 people opposed to the EDL met in nearby Castle Street.
“While West Midlands Police has no power to ban people from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions through protest, we have been planning the policing operation for months," said Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson, responsible for policing in the borough.
“Local officers have been meeting regularly with organisers, councillors, business leaders, community representatives and others to share information on the protests.
“Throughout all of our meetings, we encouraged businesses to open as usual. Some, however, took the independent decision to close. I fully understand why they made that choice given the impact the last demonstration in Dudley had on the town."
Councillor Pete Lowe, leader of the council, said: “We have worked closely with police in the build-up and throughout today, and thankfully this afternoon’s operation ran smoothly.
“We will continue to liaise with our police colleagues over the coming days as we recognise events like this can lead to an increase in community tension. We have a proud tradition across Dudley of people of all backgrounds getting on well and we have no doubt, this will continue to be the case.
“There were far fewer people than anticipated at the protests but despite the fact the operation ran as well as could be expected we must not lose sight of the fact that local businesses have been hit hard. The reality is that the fear and anxiety caused by these kinds of protests meant that the majority of businesses did not open on what would normally be their busiest day’s trade. We have said all along that the EDL is not welcome in Dudley borough but there are no legal powers to stop them holding a protest.
“However, we support our local people and local businesses and we will be looking to help them make up for this lost trade by holding a family day in the town next Sunday (February 15).
“We are liaising with businesses in relation to stores opening up through the town on the Sunday and the event will include free entertainment to encourage people to come along and support their town."
Talking about the day Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, David Jamieson, said: “The excellent work of officers has ensured that the events in Dudley were peaceful and calm.
“In advance of the protests community leaders joined my call for peace, calm and respect and I am pleased that our call was adhered to on the whole."
To allow the safe movement of protesters through the town, a number of temporary road restrictions were put into place.
During the demonstrations, specialist protest liaison officers wearing their distinctive blue uniforms acted as a central link between the groups’ leaders and the senior officer overseeing the operation from West Midland Police’s high-tech events control suite.
30 people were arrested in the town centre ahead of the protests for public order related offences.
For daily updates on policing across Dudley ‘like’: www.facebook.com/dudleypolice or follow @dudleypolice on Twitter.
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