City centre protests pass without incident

Protests and counter protests in Birmingham today have passed off without incident with just one arrest and no reported injuries.

Around 250 supporters of Britain First held the protest in Centenary Square in Birmingham city centre from around 1pm this afternoon.

Counter demonstrations also took place in the city at around the same time attracting around 150 people.

A robust policing operation – with West Midlands Police working alongside, British Transport Police, Birmingham City Council, local community leaders and other partner agencies – ensured both groups were able to protest peacefully.

One man from the counter protest group was arrested for breach of the peace and remains in custody.

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, who was in charge of the policing operation, said: “Our plans for today’s events have been long in the planning and we have worked hard to ensure the protests had minimal impact on business as usual in the city centre.

“We had hoped to keep the rival groups completely separate to avoid flashpoints; this was not achieved as the counter protest initially gathered in John Bright Street. We were fully prepared as operations like this are fast moving and situations can quickly change. We had resources in place to ensure the event passed off safely.

“There was a highly visible police presence on the ground throughout the day so that we were prepared if there were any issues reported to us and to provide reassurance, but we were confident the protests would take place peacefully.

“While West Midlands Police has no power to ban people from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions through protest, local officers had been meeting regularly with organisers, councillors, business leaders, community representatives and others to share information on the march and counter protest.

“We recognise events like this can lead to an increase in community tension, and we are particularly conscious of people’s feelings following the recent terror attacks. We do, however have a duty to facilitate the fundamental democratic right of peaceful protest.

“Disruption to the city was minimal, although to allow the safe movement of protesters through the town, a number of temporary road closures were put into place.

“We now have officers patrolling the city to maintain visibility and provide reassurance.”

Police and Crime Commisioner, David Jamison, said: “There was a professional policing operation that prevented major disorder from taking place in Birmingham.

“Everyone has the right to peaceful protest, whether you agree with their views or not. Although I find their views abhorrent, in a democracy we don’t have a choice on that.

“Unfortunately this protest will have had a knock on effect on the policing that West Midlands Police were able to deliver across the region. At a time when policing is under strain officers have been taken away from their important duties of protecting people.”

Source:: West Midlands Police News

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