The massive police operation to keep English Defence League and anti-fascist demonstrators apart will be at least £500,000, The Star can reveal.
Some 1,000 officers from 10 different forces were deployed in Sheffield city centre on Saturday as more than 500 EDL supporters and the group’s leader, Tommy Robinson, came to lay a wreath at the war memorial.
They were met by a similar number of anti-fascist demonstrators.
The bill for the operation was confirmed by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright.
He also revealed that two officers received minor injuries.
One of them was hurt when trying to keep the EDL and rival Muslim protesters apart in scuffles in streets off West Street, after the wreath had been laid.
Five arrests were made on suspicion of assault and public order offences.
The far right EDL, which tried to lay the wreath the previous weekend but was stopped by protesters, said it wanted to make the gesture ‘in memory’ of soldier Lee Rigby, who was murdered by Islamic extremists.
Mr Wright said that Saturday ‘went brilliantly from a policing perspective’.
But he said that the cost was an unwanted expense at a time when budgets are stretched, and that the protests proved ‘incredibly disruptive to the city centre’.
Mr Wright said: “From a policing perspective, clearly plans were put in place which went brilliantly.
“Unfortunately, two officers suffered minor injuries, one suffering dehydration and another being hurt when trying to hold back protesters.”
He added: “Clearly, as a policing operation it was successful but it was very expensive and money I would rather spend elsewhere.”
Asked if the cost was around half a million pounds, he said: “I wouldn’t disagree with that.”
Mr Wright criticised a break-away group of more than 100 Muslim and anti-fascist protesters who ran up Division Street to confront EDL members being held by police in the West Street area.
The Muslim and anti-fascist group, some of whom were chanting in Arabic and waving placards, was eventually stopped by lines of officers and scuffles broke out.
EDL members also tried repeatedly to break away down side streets but were held back by hundreds of police.
Mr Wright said: “The day was incredibly disruptive to the city centre.
“The anti-fascist break-away group was not helpful and had to be coralled to allow dispersal of the EDL and prevent more trouble.”
He said ‘individuals trying to use the event for their own purposes’ were to blame, not Unite Against Fascism organisers.
Mr Wright said that full analysis would take place of the police operation to see if any lessons could be learned for future policing of large demonstrations.
Paul Scarrott, secretary for Sheffield UAF, said: “Thousands of people stood united to proudly celebrate and defend multicultural Sheffield.
“By contrast the EDL failed in their attempt to bring division and hate with their racist chants of ‘Allah is a paedophile’.”
English Defence League members were silent and made Churchill ‘V’ signs when entering Barker’s Pool but later chanted anti-Muslim and police slogans on West Street, where they were held by police for three hours.
Scott Walker, EDL Yorkshire regional organiser, said: “I think the event went really well. The UAF members were shouting and bawling at us when we held a silence to Drummer Rigby after laying our wreath.
“The police seemed to have lost control at one point when the group of UAF and Muslims ran towards us.
“The cost of the protest is the price of a democracy. If the UAF had let us lay flowers the previous week, we wouldn’t have come back.”
Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield said he did not claim EDL members made Nazi salutes but commented on The Star’s video footage which appears to show some of the group making the gesture in Barker’s Pool.
The EDL denies members made Nazi salutes and said they were making Churchill ‘V’ signs in defiance of anti-fascist demonstrators.
■ Watch the video of the EDL protest at http://www.thestar.co.uk
Political and religious leaders have praised members of the public who attended a One Sheffield, Many Cultures’ multi-cultural celebration.
The event was held in the Peace Gardens at the same time as the English Defence League wreath laying and Unite Against Fascism protest.
Speakers at the celebration included Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore, Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, and Abdool Gooljar, Sheffield representative for the Islamic Society of Britain.
Around 2,000 people attended.
Mr Blomfield MP said: “The thousands of local people who came together to celebrate the strength and vibrancy of our multi-cultural city sent a clear message to the EDL – your attempt to promote hatred and division isn’t welcome in Sheffield.”
Coun John Campbell, chairman of the One Sheffield, Many Cultures festival, said: “People of all ages all cultures joined a wonderful celebration of music and dance united as one community – our strength is we will not be divided.”
Mr Gooljar added: “We say no to racism and fascism. Together we Sheffielders – those of faith and none – come to celebrate the richness of diversity, and enjoy the peace and harmony of our great city.”
WHAT YOU SAID ON THE WEB:
The Star’s coverage of the English Defence League wreath laying and Unite Against Fascism protest sparked a heated debate among readers.
More than 50,000 people viewed stories and video coverage of Saturday’s event on our website.
Kevin Stainton said: “The media say EDL are the problem, the people of the UK are realising that UAF are hell bent on starting the trouble every time.
“Not surprising really as the UAF is Government funded and supported.”
Big Mart said: “The EDL have a right to their opinion and they have a right to their voice. Have the EDL ever crashed planes into buildings? Have they bombed trains and buses in London? Did they try to behead a young man in the street for wearing a shirt supporting help for injured servicemen?”
But another reader, Moanytony, said: “To all the EDL and UAF supporters. You’re all just a bunch of clichés. Extremists from both ends of the political spectrum who don’t represent the majority view.
“By the way, who are the English – and shouldn’t that be the British? How many different migrant races are in our make-up historically?”
Sheff Infidels, who was among the EDL members at the war memorial, posted: “Some of you traitorous left wing rats make me sick.
“We chanted your not English anymore to the white English tramps that booed, jeered and hurled insults at us during our silence.
“UAF and the Muslims tried attacking us from all angles. The UAF chanted we would be dead if it wasn’t for the police.
“Are they having a laugh? Those skinny little student anarchist hippie type rats would have been steam-rollered had we been let through, as for the Muslims they only kick off when tooled up.
“We are fighting back because enough is enough.”
But Katherine Newman, of Crosspool, said: “The EDL say they are not racist but I don’t think anyone really believes them. They pick on the vulnerable and fearful.
“My husband is from the West Indies and he came over when he was 18 years old. They were brought up to believe that England was the mother country and that they would be welcomed. Instead, they were dumped on from a great height.
“The people who came here, mostly Jamaicans and Asian, did a lot of dirty jobs that the English did not want to do and had to put up with a lot of hostility.
“If you are against foreigners coming in, you have the same ideology as Hitler. A lot of these foreigners fought alongside the British in the wars.”