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Police cannot ban March for England as it is not violent enough
WITH VIDEO: Police bosses have said they are unable to ban the annual March for England because there is not enough widespread disorder.
That is the message despite running battles through the city, on Sunday, which saw businesses trashed and 27 arrests.
One of the largest police operations the city has ever seen was required to keep around 150 nationalists and 1,000 anti-fascists apart.
But despite the presence of officers from at least nine forces, there were still numerous bloody clashes throughout the day.
Many are now calling for the march to either be banned or moved.
But police bosses, who said they were “satisfied” with the operation, have said how banning the event is out of the question.
Superintendent Steve Whitton said: “There were a number of incidents of disorder after the march was finished which we will continue to investigate.
“They were, however, not during the organised procession along the seafront which is all that a banning order would seek to control. The march and counter protest on the seafront was relatively peaceful.”
He added: “The exceptional option of applying for a banning order for a procession is on the grounds that serious disorder cannot be prevented with the resources and legislation already available to the police.
“Although there was disorder in some areas , it was dealt with swiftly by officers and arrests have been made.
“The serious disorder to reach the threshold for a ban would have to take the form of widespread violent protest, rioting, criminal damage and looting. A banning order can only ban a procession and there is no power to prevent an assembly.
“I am determined that we should continue to focus on identifying those involved and holding them to account.”
Political leaders yesterday condemned the weekend’s event with some calling for its future to be reviewed.
He said: “I’ve been calling for the march to be moved away from our shop window – the seafront.
“I put forward a notice of motion last year but didn’t get any support. I think the police should consider moving it elsewhere.
“Where to move it is a difficult one. Last time I suggested – perhaps a bit tongue in cheek – maybe holding it at Race Hill. It’s a difficult one.”
He added: “My main concern is for the businesses, the restaurant owners and the hoteliers, who suffer.
“It also paints our city in a bad light. Anyone seeing those scenes would probably think twice about visiting.”
However, the veteran politician stopped short of calling for the march to be banned, adding that it would be a “dangerous move”.
He said: “Who is it who chooses which group is banned and which isn’t. It’s a slippery slope.”
Warren Morgan, Labour leader on the council, was among the anti-fascist protesters on Sunday.
He added: “I’d repeat what I said to the March for England leader’s face, that his organisation should not come to our city now or in the future.
“Any pretence at being a family-orientated event was once again dispelled by around 100 right-wing thugs.”
He added: “This isn’t about promoting Britishness, it is about provoking violence, and an abuse of the rights we as a nation have fought to preserve.”
Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, also said the march should be held elsewhere.
Meanwhile Mike Weatherley, Conservative MP for Hove, said marchers only come to the city for the reaction.
He said: “They will continue to come as long as they get the reaction that they want.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said she would meet police to discuss the future of the march.
She added: “Brighton traders and residents, like myself, do not want the March for England to come to Brighton every year to spread their hatred and bigotry.
“I discussed the proposals with the police in some detail and we discussed whether the march could be banned.
“The police told me that the final decision on banning the march would lie with the Home Secretary, following a request from the council on police advice, and the only grounds for banning the march would be if the police believed that they would be unable to cope with the march.”
The Argus also contacted council leader Jason Kitcat, but at the time of going to press he had not responded.
One of the main flashpoints on Sunday was at The Dorset pub on the corner of Gardner Street and North Road.
A group of nationalists were drinking inside when about 20 anti-fascists attacked.
Tables, chairs and bottles were thrown and punches exchanged in a terrifying few minutes before police arrived.
Yesterday staff at the popular pub were counting the cost of the clash.
Manager Ali Ceesay said she was unaware the drinkers were from the march.
The 34-year-old said: “It was just awful – some men showed up who turned out to be from the march. We’ve been strict with entry to the pub over the weekend but it’s impossible to vet everyone who walks in.
“Some of the anti-facists approached and they had an altercation. Someone flipped over a table and they started throwing ashtrays, chairs and tables.”
She added: “The fight caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage and it’s amazing our windows weren’t smashed.
“Next year we’re going to have to question whether we open. We paid a fortune for our CCTV system – we’ve got pictures and statements all ready. Whilst I respect the right to protest, we were all put at risk.”
Infinity Foods, which is across the road from The Dorset pub, suffered broken windows with terrified shoppers cowering in the aisles.
While those in charge tried to get back to normal today, shop assistant Tom Cowan, 33, said a deeper look was needed at why the protesters wanted to come.
He said: “I think we need to look at why these people feel so let down by our country that they need to do this. No one is talking to each other.”
The streets around North Laine saw a number of clashes as police concentrated on moving the main group along Queen’s Road towards the station.
The Argus visited residents, who spoke of their terror.
Rose Gander, 27, said: “I think being able to protest is important but everyone just seemed to want to hurt each other.
“I really don’t know why they want to come to Brighton – it’s so multicultural. They must have been looking for a fight.”
Richard Allan, 25, said: “I do think protest is important and I get that these people are angry with the state of society, but I don’t want them to come back.”
Police issued an appeal yesterday for any witnesses to the clash outside The Dorset pub.
Describing it as a “nasty incident,” Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes said: “We already know that video footage of the incident was taken by someone in The Dorset pub and would appeal to this person to come forward, as we would to anyone else who witnessed it.
“We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour and will be making every effort to find those people involved to bring them to justice.”
The Argus has contacted the people who supplied us with the above video footage to alert them to the appeal.
Anyone with information about The Dorset pub fight should contact police on 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting reference 474 of 27/4.
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