POLICE PLEDGE AS DUDLEY PROTEST PLANS RELEASED
6 July 2010
POLICE preparing for a second protest in a Black Country town are taking decisive steps to reassure the local community - and have vowed that trouble will not be tolerated.
The pledge comes as protesters from the English Defence League announced plans to gather in Dudley town centre on July 17.
It is the fourth time the group have come to the West Midlands and the second time they have staged a major protest in Dudley.
But police say growing intelligence and tactical changes made after previous protests have helped to strengthen their hand.
Chief Supt Tom Coughlan said: "Given the nature of previous protests we are acutely aware that communities, locations or individuals may feel vulnerable.
"We have a duty to allow protesters to do so peacefully, but incitement to hatred or violence or other crimes against people or property will be dealt with firmly."
He added: "Previous experience has allowed us to fine-tune our response and tactics and as a result we are better prepared than ever to ensure that the demonstration occurs with the maximum regard to public safety."
Protesters have been told they must congregate in the town's Stafford Street car park, where they will be monitored by officers throughout.
At this stage there is no estimate of the numbers expected, but Chief Supt Coughlan insisted: "As before we will have sufficient resources deployed around the town to ensure public safety and prevent disorder.
"We have no power to ban a static protest - in fact we have a duty to uphold the democratic right to protest peacefully. But we are experienced in dealing with this kind of event and will deal robustly with any criminal behaviour."
Officers will be deployed at the car park, throughout the town and at sensitive locations identified during previous protests.
Chief Supt Coughlan said: "The policing operation will balance equally and fairly the rights of all those who may be affected.
"Our priority though will be to provide a visible reassurance to retailers, shoppers and all those visiting Dudley town centre, where there will inevitably be some disruption due to road closures."
Police have also not ruled out imposing restrictions on any protest as the date gets closer, in the interests of public safety.
Police have been meeting community representatives, religious leaders, businesses and other organisations that might be affected by the event.
Chief Supt Coughlan said: "We will keep up that dialogue to ensure Dudley's reputation as a safe and harmonious place to live and visit is not undermined."
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