Residents criticise ‘lack of information’ in run-up to Stevenage EDL march

The police have been criticised for a lack of communication ahead of Saturday's EDL march

The police have been criticised for a lack of communication ahead of Saturday's EDL march - Credit: Archant

Residents have criticised a “lack of information” from police in the run-up to the English Defence League (EDL) rally.

Around 300 members of the EDL came to Stevenage on Saturday

Around 300 members of the EDL came to Stevenage on Saturday - Credit: Archant

People living in flat block The Towers in Stevenage town centre have joined members of the town’s Muslim community in criticising a “complete absence of communication” from Hertfordshire Constabulary leading up to the far-right demonstration.

Police and stewards speak to EDL members

Police and stewards speak to EDL members - Credit: Archant

Eddie Jackson has lived in The Towers for five years. He said residents were told the EDL would be passing The Towers as part of their march – not setting up a small stage and delivering an hour-long address directly in front of the building’s entrance. He also claims he was not allowed access to his garages throughout the day due to police barricades being erected.

The 35-year-old said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. We had been told the EDL would be passing through and we accepted there wasn’t much we could do about it but this was too much. There was a complete absence of communication from the police and Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) about where exactly they were going and for how long. It was completely unfair on the hardworking residents living here.”

Salman Lone, executive committee member for Stevenage Central Mosque based off Vardon Road, told the Comet many Muslims in the town were “extremely anxious” when they were told about the march and that police “could have done more” to keep them informed.

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He said: “Many of our members were frustrated with an apparent lack of information. We were brief by police a few days before the march but the demonstration was planned months ago. We had people saying they feared for their safety and were not sure whether or not to stay at home. This is unpleasant for many but, as the EDL are an anti-Islamic group, we are the main victims in some ways. Why did they not tell us first of all?”

Chief Inspector for Stevenage Richard Harbon: “In the limited amount of time we had in the lead up to the marches we tried to engage with as many people who were likely to be directly affected as possible, while continuing with our normal police duties. This included leafleting affected businesses and properties and the publication of route details in the local press.

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“There was naturally some disruption to the everyday lives of some Stevenage residents, but people are allowed to hold peaceful demonstrations and assemblies as long as they do so within the confines of the law. We are extremely grateful to local residents for their patience and understanding on the day.”

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