Minor disorder during Walsall protests
29 September 2012
WALSALL is returning to normal following a large-scale operation in the town centre to manage an afternoon of demonstrations by the English Defence League and groups in opposition.
Up to 1000 people gathered to support events at two protest locations in the town, with a strong police presence ensuring thousands of people visiting Walsall could continue to go about their usual business.
Supporters of the EDL gathered in Leicester Street from 11am, with speakers for the group taking to the stage for a short period this afternoon.
A counter demonstration, outside of the new art gallery in Gallery Square, also saw more than 500 people gather and join an event aimed at promoting diversity across the borough.
Both events were largely peaceful, with minor disorder seen at the EDL protest as the event drew to a close. A small number of protesters and police officers sustained minor cuts and bruises during disorder, however no serious injuries were reported.
Around 28 arrests were made in the Leicester Street area during this time, with a further opposition protester arrested elsewhere in the town.
Buses were also diverted after Centro closed the town’s station as a precaution as the events continued this afternoon, causing some disruption to local people.
Walsall Police will continue to liaise closely with local communities over the coming days and weeks to ensure today’s events have not adversely affected Walsall’s reputation as a harmonious town with people of many different cultures living alongside each other in peace.
Chief Superintendent Dave Sturman, commander for Walsall and in charge of the day’s operation, said: “The majority of people attending the two demonstrations were peaceful and law abiding. Unfortunately a small number of people at the Leicester Street site became a little more aggressive and there was minor disorder for around ten minutes.
“Arrests were made where necessary and further enquiries will be made to determine if any other offences were committed.
“That said, this has generally been a successful operation, due in no small part to the excellent work between police, our partner agencies and representatives of our communities.
“A great deal of mediation also went on behind the scenes with both the EDL and counter protest organisers to enable them to exercise their democratic right to protest.
“That negotiation led to the two groups employing their own stewards who played a significant role in attempting to maintain order.”
He added: “We recognise that the people of Walsall have been both concerned and inconvenienced and we would like to thank them for their tolerance, co-operation and patience.”
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “Our priority will always be the safety of the public and protesters while ensuring events like these do not impact on the longer term stability of Walsall’s communities.
“While we will always uphold the democratic right to protest, organisations intent on disorder or provoking violence will continue to be unwelcome in the West Midlands."
Mr Ram Mehmi, President of the Shri Guru Ravidass Cultural Association in Darlaston, and a member of Walsall Independent Advisory Group, was involved in viewing the police operation throughout the day. Following the conclusion of the operation he said: “I have been in a position to see the full police operation as it played out and have been impressed by all I have seen.
“Police were very well organised and the tactical options they used in very difficult circumstances went well to make sure that the safety of the public was secure.
“The planning that went into today’s operation was very detailed and the community was very involved in the arrangements to make sure that our good relationships across the borough continue.”