WEST MIDLANDS POLICE has finalised plans ahead of a protest by right-wing group Pegida UK tomorrow (Sat Feb 6) – and warned it will come down hard on anyone intent on causing trouble.
The force has been negotiating with organisers for several weeks and agreed a protest site in Birmingham International Business Park a short walk from Birmingham International railway station.
Protestors will muster at the station car-park between 1-2pm before walking to the demo point in nearby Starley Way; it’s anticipated the event will end by around 3pm.
Solihull Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Alex Murray said: “The protest is away from residential and retail centres…organisers have told us they are planning a peaceful, silent march from the train station to the protest site.
“So far around 370 Pegida supporters have indicated they intend to participate – and we are also planning for a small group of counter protestors near the railway station but away from the Pegida protest site.
“Ensuring there is no protestor crossover, and minimising the risk of potential flashpoints, is a key element of our event planning.
“There is nothing to suggest there is a significant risk of disorder but the public can rest assured we will take swift action against anyone committing criminal offences.
“We will have a highly visible police presence on the ground, including protest liaison officers, and sufficient police resources on standby to manage any eventuality.”
Starley Way will be closed during the day while Bickenhill Lane will be shut temporarily for a short period to allow for protestors to walk from Birmingham International to the demo point where speeches will be held.
Solihull Police has visited businesses near the protest site to make them aware of the plans and explain how officers can support staff on the day.
Chief Supt Murray, added: “We do not anticipate any serious traffic disruption but we would advise anyone intending to use Bickenhill Lane early in the afternoon, including people heading to the airport, to allow extra time for their journey.
“We have visited affected businesses to inform them of the plans and to offer any assistance they need to ensure staff and deliveries can come and go unhindered.”
West Midlands Police is vastly experienced in accommodating and preparing for such events having run operations around similar protests in Birmingham, Dudley, Solihull and Walsall – the most recent of which have passed off without incident.
Officers will also be working tomorrow with Community Observers – influencers from the local community who will on hand speaking to members of the public near the protest site and diverting them from trouble.
Chief Supt Murray confirmed that police forces are not able to ban lawful protests. He added: “People often pose the question: ‘Why don’t you ban the protest?’ However, the right to protest is something that is enshrined in law and the police have a positive duty to protect and not apply restrictions that are disproportionate.
“We cannot ban protests because they are a static assembly of people and, as such, are legal as long as they are peaceful and within the law.
“Equally, police do not have the power to ban any marches; any decision to prevent a march from taking place would be agreed by the secretary of state – and only in the most extreme circumstances – on the request of the police and local authority.”