Hundreds of officers from Yorkshire forces to police English Defence League protest

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HUNDREDS of police officers will be in Rotherham town centre tomorrow when the latest in series of protests by far-right group the English Defence League and a counter demonstration takes place

Senior officers have warned those attending demonstrations on Saturday (Feb 25) that robust action will be taken against anyone engaging in antisocial behaviour or other criminality.

The English Defence League group is due to gather at Main Street Police Station at 2pm, before they march up to Rotherham Town Hall via Westgate and Ship Hill.

There will be speeches at Rotherham Town Hall at around 3pm, before the group will march back to Main Street and disperse by 4pm.

The counter demonstration will take place at Minster Gardens at around 1pm. This group are expected to disperse by 6pm.

Chief Superintendent Rob Odell, Rotherham Commander, said: “We are acutely aware of the significant impact repeated protests have had on Rotherham, both the financial impact on businesses and the local economy, and the emotional impact on our local communities who feel intimidated and scared by continued protests.

“To this end, we want to make it absolutely clear that those attending the demonstrations in Rotherham on Saturday will be subject to strict conditions. Anyone who breaches those conditions could be arrested.

“We will be making use of Section 35 orders, which gives us powers under the Police and Crime Act to disperse anyone we believe intends to be involved in antisocial behaviour or crime.

“There will be hundreds of officers, from both South Yorkshire Police and forces across the country, in the town centre and surrounding areas. This is to offer our local residents and businesses visible reassurance, as well as allowing us to effectively manage any emerging issues of antisocial behaviour or crime.

“This significant policing operation takes valuable resources away from other investigations into serious incidents and crime not just in Rotherham, but across South Yorkshire, so we entirely empathise with our local community when we say we are also impacted by repeated protests in our region.

“We would much rather put these resources into investigating crimes against vulnerable people, but demonstrations have the potential to pose a risk to public safety and therefore we must have a policing operation in place to protect members of the public.”

While marches take place, there will be road closures. These will be broadcast on the force’s social media account @syprotherham – you can also follow the hashtag #OpKilogramme for more information.

Updates relating to the demonstrations will also be posted on the South Yorkshire Police Facebook page and website if necessary.

Chief Supt Odell added: “There will be drugs dogs in place searching those taking part in demonstrations and I want to remind everyone attending that a Designated Public Place Order is in place across Rotherham that prevents alcohol being consumed in a public place. Anyone caught doing so will have their drinks confiscated and could face further action.

“Any crimes committed on Saturday will be dealt with robustly and be subject to a thorough investigation afterwards.

“We know that hate crime will be a key concern for members of the community locally. We’d urge anyone aware of such an incident to report this to one of the many referral centres so we can take action against those responsible.

“We are working closely with Rotherham Council and local businesses to try and minimise the impact of Saturday’s demonstrations and we will try to ensure that businesses can operate as normally as possible.

“We recognise the rights of those involved to peacefully protest but we will not tolerate criminal or antisocial behaviour.”