THE English Defence League protest in Walsall passed ‘peacefully’ according to police who continued to patrol Walsall town centre afterwards to ensure there was no serious disorder.
Members of the nationalist group gathered outside the art gallery for around an hour before dispersing just before 2.30pm.
There were no reports of serious disorder or injuries; seven people were arrested for low-level public order offences and another two after a car was damaged.
Walsall Police Chief Inspector Martin Hurcomb, said: “We have been planning the policing operation for months…the collective effort of police, Walsall Council, partners agencies and community groups have helped ensure the protest passed off without major incident.
“We were confident the rally would be peaceful: our negotiations with EDL organisers were very positive and they stressed their intentions to express their views without resorting to disorder.
“The disruption to the town centre was kept to a minimum and, though a handful of pubs chose to shut and some retailers boarded windows as a precaution, most of the town centre was open for business as usual.”
EDL members made the short walk from the Oak Inn pub, Green Lane, at 1pm around the Townend Street roundabout and past Park Street before turning into the protest site in gallery square.
At the same time there was a celebration of diversity event organised by a collective of local people and community groups called ‘We Are Walsall’ outside St Paul’s church.
Chief Insp Hurcomb, added: “Local officers have been meeting regularly with organisers, councillors, business leaders, community representatives and others to share information on the protest.
“I appreciate there was concern in the build-up to the rally but I hope we were able to reassure people plans were in place to deal with any eventuality and that we were confident there wouldn’t be the kind of serious disorder that marred the EDL’s visit in 2012.”
A man, aged 30, from Palfrey was arrested at 11.20am in Wolverhampton Road and a 33-year-old woman from Tyne & Wear arrested in Stafford Street – both for public order matters – while a 59-year-old Tipton man was detained for being drunk and disorderly.
Four other local males – two aged 17 and men aged 18 and 20 – were arrested in Stafford Road to prevent a breach of the peace; they were not part of the EDL protest.
And two men were arrested after a car was damaged.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “The police have done a professional job keeping the people of Walsall safe and maintaining normality as much as possible.”
And Walsall Council Leader, Councillor Mike Bird, added: “I’m pleased to say that, by and large, the demonstration passed by without much incident and without too much disruption to the town thanks to the coordinated efforts of the police and our staff. I’d like to thank everybody for their efforts. We have a strong, vibrant town built on the hard work of our diverse community. Walsall will not be divided by these events.”