Police 'prepared' as protestors head for Edinburgh anti-fascism rally

Around 3,000 anti-fascism demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday alongside MSPs, charity and trade union activists as protesters from the far-right Scottish Defence League (SDL) vow to head for the city.

The Scotland United rally has been organised to coincide with an unofficial demo organised by the SDL and speaker Aamer Anwar told STV News they plan to show there is no place for racist and fascist organisations in Scotland.

Police say preparations are well under way to deal with any situations that arrive and say they have been working alongside Scotland United's organisers to facilitate a peaceful event.

A statement from the Lothian and Borders force said no permission had been sought for a second SDL demonstration but that officers were engaging with the organisation.
 
The SDL describes itself as non-violent and pro-British. A video posted under the group's name on You Tube urges members to head to the capital on Saturday to demonstrate against "Islamification" in the UK.
 
Police say it remains unclear how many SDL members could turn up to take part but a large police presence is expected to prevent violence in the city centre.

Lothian and Borders Police Superintendent Lesley Clark said: "We will facilitate peaceful protest and we are confident we have contingency plans in place to respond promptly to any emerging issues.

"We been advising businesses in the city centre, and engaging with the many diverse communities who live and work in Edinburgh. We have been reassuring people that while we have no reason to believe there will be any cause for concern, we will take appropriate action to deal with any anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

"Finally, we would ask that all visitors to Edinburgh treat our city with the respect it deserves, and enjoy their time here without causing disruption."
 
A previous demonstration held in Glasgow by the SDL saw a small number of protesters contained by police and then herded onto buses out of the city, while an anti-fascism protest at the same time saw thousands pass peacefully through the city.
 
In their online video urging members to attend the event in Edinburgh, the SDL says: "To our brothers and sisters in another country, we will never surrender.
 
"We will join together to defend the British Flag. The SDL will unite with their fellow countrymen to defend this great nation. We will never surrender. Edinburgh, February 20, be there!
 
To carry on the fight against Muslim extremists and Islamification in Great Britain, we will never surrender. If you love this country and love Great Britain then please join us in Edinburgh on February 20. We all join as one."
 
Among the groups vowing to turn out are the UK Casuals Unit, who describe themselves as "Football lads against the Jihadists".
 
The Scotland United rally, organised by Unite Against Racism and Fascism, will begin at Princes Street Gardens on Saturday morning before a march heads through the city centre.
 
Lawyer Aamer Anwar is among those speaking at the rally. He told STV News: "The Scottish Defence League, the English Defence League and the BNP have stated that they wish to march in Edinburgh on Saturday. We are uniting, right across the political spectrum, against their message of hatred. And we are sending a out a positive message, one of unity and one of celebration of our diversity.
 
"Let me be quite clear. They are testing the water and complacency is not an option. Silence is not an option. In the 1930s, the fascists scapegoated one section of the community, the Jewish community. And now today, what we have is a far right Nazi organisation that is scapegoating the Muslim community and that's why we're uniting. And every time they raise their heads they have be exposed for what they are, which is fascists."
 
The SDL is an offshoot of the English Defence league, which has staged protests in Manchester and Birmingham which resulted in violence. However, a march organised by the organisation in Glasgow in November attracted only a small crowd.
 
Thousands of people attended a march on the same day in Glasgow organised by Unite Against Racism and Fascism, where politicians from across the Scottish political spectrum made speeches denouncing fascist groups and organisations, including the SDL and the BNP. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and Scottish labour Leader Iain Gray are among those expected to take to the stage in Edinburgh.
 
Mr Anwar said the fact the Glasgow SDL demo attracted so few people did not mean peaceful protesters would not been needed to send the multiculturalism message.
 
He added: "There is a rise of far right right throughout Europe, the BNP are winning seats within England, and we are saying that we can't be complacent. The message is quite clear in Scotland. We're saying to the Scottish Defence League and the English Defence League, stay out of Edinburgh on Saturday and don't bother coming.
 
"There will be no trouble from our side. As I've said, every mainstream political party is marching for the faith groups, for the religious groups and for the anti-racist organisations who are marching in unity. And the police have already stated that they will be denied the right to march. They have no right to march in that city. The only people marching that day will be United Against Racism and Fascism."
 

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