Protests held by far right groups in ethnically diverse areas are provocation, but banning them can have undesired effects. Josh Black looks at a ban on the English Defence League in East London.
Ethnic minorities account for nearly 35 per cent of the residents of Waltham Forest, a borough in East London, with most living in the town of Walthamstow. On 1 September 2012 the English Defence League (EDL), which claims to campaign against Islamic extremism but is often accused of being a racist organisation, sought to march through Walthamstow town centre to Council offices. Local residents arranged a counter-demonstration and blocked their progress, leading police to cancel the EDL march and ask its supporters to disperse.
Following the abortive march, the EDL declared its intention to return to Walthamstow at a later date. The local council sought and obtained an order by the Home Secretary that restricted the EDL to staging static protests in front of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster and residents of Waltham Forest to a static protest in Walthamstow. Some residents considered this unfair, calling police attempts to prevent the campaigners marching “a disgraceful attack on local democracy.”