An English Defence League (EDL) National Demo is to take place this Saturday in Exeter. It is expected that supporters of the far right organisation will travel to the city to protest against ‘militant Islam’.
A statement on the EDL’s website entitled “Why We Are Going to Exeter” highlights the University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies and Centre for the Study of Islam as reasons for holding the demonstration in the city.
The statement says: “We will not stand idly by while British morals are ground under to make way for primitive customs that excuse themselves under the banner of religion. On the 16th November we will stand in protest in Exeter and we will demand action. We will not be silent.”
In response to the EDL demo, a group called Exeter Together have arranged a march on the same day to celebrate diversity and resist “racism and fascism”. Exeter Together was created and set up at the start of October, and has since gained support from multiple societal groups.
Alongside organisations such as the National Union of Teachers, the Public and Commercial Services Union and Exeter Pride, societies from the University have also shown their support for Exeter Together’s cause.
They include the University’s UNISON branch, UCU branch, the International Society, Palestine Society and Socialist Students. Individuals from the University who have claimed their support for the cause include the presidents of both the Liberal Democrat and Labour Society; Ollie Garrod, the University’s Athletics Captain; and Hannah Barton, the President of the Student’s Guild.
Hannah Barton, Guild President, said: “I feel it is important that we celebrate the diversity of our student population and the city of Exeter. Exeter enjoys a unique and very special community feel, due in part to our multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-faith population. I believe that we are privileged to have such a population and we should enjoy this aspect of living in such a wonderful place.”
Local Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has also pledged his support to Exeter Together.
A statement from Exeter Together reads: “We are proud of the diversity of our city which is most visibly seen at the annual Respect festival. The EDL are not welcome in Exeter. We call on all to take a firm, peaceful stand against the EDL by coming together to celebrate our diversity on the day.”
The University of Exeter have not confirmed whether there will be additional security on campus on Saturday but did say that they “are not expecting the march to come near the University.”
In an email to all students and staff, Chief Operating Officer Dr Claire Baines said: “I am writing to let you know that there is a planned march by the English Defence League on Saturday 16 November in Exeter city centre. We understand that a counter-march by opponents of the EDL is also going to take place. You may want to take note of this information if you are planning to visit the city centre.”
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “There will be a heightened police presence on the day due to there potentially being a large number of people at both marches. We aim to reduce the impact on local people as much as possible.” He explained that the police will “respect the right to peacefully protest” but “if there is disorder then will act.”
Exeposé Online will be reporting on the protests throughout the day with live coverage as the demonstrations take place.
Tom Elliott, Online News Editor