EDL March In Walsall

Protest by EDL

"Business as usual" - that's the message from West Midlands Police for anyone planning to visit Walsall later as the town prepares for the arrival of English Defence League protesters.

Up to 200 EDL members are expected to attend the town centre demonstration between 1-3pm outside the art gallery.

The nationalist group's last visit to Walsall, in September 2012, was marred by ugly scenes of disorder and resulted in the arrest and conviction of more than 30 troublemakers.

Police are keen to stress that negotiations with EDL organisers have been positive and the group are committed to having their say peacefully.

Walsall Police Chief Inspector Martin Hurcomb, said: "We've come a long way since 2012: we have much better links with protest organisers now and negotiations have really matured, while we are vastly experienced as a police force in managing such protests."

"The most recent protests in Dudley have passed off without serious disorder and indications are the demo in Walsall on Saturday will be similarly peaceful.

"However, make no mistake that if we do witness any incidents of violence we will act swiftly to nip it in the bud and push for prosecutions against offenders.

"Local residents and retailers can rest assured we will have sufficient resources in place to safely manage any sized protest."

EDL members are expected to rendezvous at the Oak Inn pub, Green Lane, before 11am from where they will walk to the protest site outside the art gallery; they are expected to disperse at around 3pm with most being collected from gallery square.

At the same time there is a celebration of diversity event organised by a collective of local individuals and community groups called 'We Are Walsall' outside St Paul's church which will be supported by live bands and performers.

Chief Insp Hurcomb, added: "We are often asked 'why don’t you ban the protest' but we have no legal powers to stop groups from exercising their democratic right to protest.

"There will be temporary road restrictions on Green Lane to both traffic and pedestrians and access to and around Gallery Square may be restricted for a few hours."

West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: "The police are used to dealing with these operations in a professional and calm manner.

"Walsall is a diverse borough in which people from different backgrounds and cultures get on and work together.

"In the West Midlands we respect the values of each other and the right that we all have to worship freely in whichever way we choose.

"The right to peacefully protest will be protected, but we expect everybody who visits the area to respect local people and their right live in harmony."