A RIGHT wing march in Rotherham town centre will go ahead on Saturday despite concerns from businesses, politicians and campaigners because police have no powers to stop it.
Muslim leaders drew up a petition to South Yorkshire Police’s interim Chief Constable Dave Jones which was signed by more than 60 men and women, including charity bosses, councillors and business owners.
They want to keep anti-Islam group Pegida UK — led by EDL founder Tommy Robinson — out of town.
But Assistant Chief Con Jason Harwin said the march will go ahead as “criteria required to prevent a procession are not met”.
Pegida UK’s deputy leader Anne Marie Waters said it plans to make a “silent protest” in the town centre against “Islamic misogyny and anti-white hatred”.
But the petition’s signatories point to 14 past CSE protests in the town, at which EDL and Britain First have “merely used the grooming scandal to spread their racism, hate and bigotry”.
Shopkeepers have reported a 90 per cent fall in Saturday trading each time right wing groups come to Rotherham, while police have highlighted an increase in racist street attacks.
The three-page letter says: “This protest, like all others before it, will contribute little to the ongoing work to move on, address the past issues and rebuild community cohesion.”
It adds: “We need the Pegida march to be stopped. Its very mention is causing disgust, anxiety and fear."
Mr Harwin, said: “The matter is under constant review. This will include, if necessary, the need to invoke powers under the Public Order Act 1986.
“At this stage the criteria required to prevent a procession is not met, but other restrictions may apply including limits on the number of people that can attend, the time and location of the event.
“We will continue to work with all groups and communities to ensure we comply with the law, respecting the rights of all to peaceful protest, balanced against the rights of those affected.”
He added: “Minimising any disruption, potential disorder and increased tensions remains a key focus of the planning.
“We fully appreciate the context Rotherham and its communities face, with repeated protest from different groups. We will continue to work with the Home Office to consider the need for potential changes in the legislation.”
Reacting to news that the march will go ahead, British Muslim Youth founder Muhbeen Hussain said: “To not ban Pegida UK is to ban local people from the town centre, because they will not be willing to go there on Saturday.”
Petition signatories include Cllrs Taiba Yaseen, Tajamal Hussain and Rose McNeely, Apna Haq charity founder Zlakha Ahmed, Ramadhan Foundation founder Mohammed Shafiq and Tell MAMA founder Fiyaz Mughal.