LIVE BLOG: EDL march and counter protests in Slough
Protestors including the English Defence League are expected to descend on Slough today.
The Express team will be in the town to report on the protests.
Live updates will be posted below when available. You will need to refresh this page regularly.
Police have released the following statement about today's protests:
Two opposing demonstrations held in Slough this afternoon have passed off without major incident for Thames Valley Police and Slough Borough Council.
It is estimated that between 500 to 600 people took part in both demonstrations, one by the English Defence League and a counter demonstration.
A number of officers from across Thames Valley Police, Hampshire Constabulary and British Transport Police were visible during the demonstrations as part of a pre-planned comprehensive and proportionate policing operation.
A small amount of disorder did break out in the town centre; however officers quickly dealt with the incidents and maintained control of the situation. Four people were arrested for various public order offences.
Two officers were injured during the demonstration; one sustained facial injuries and the other an injury to his leg.
Supt Simon Bowden, local police commander for Slough police area, said: "I am pleased that these demonstrations have passed off without major incident. Disruption was kept to a minimum and we are grateful for the support we received from local communities.
"There were a handful of arrests made over the course of the day, mainly for public disorder. However, the vast majority of those taking part were well behaved.
"The demonstrations had understandably caused a great deal of concern amongst some of our communities and I would like to thank them for their tolerance, co-operation and patience.
"I am proud to be a commander of an area in Thames Valley which has a strong sense of community cohesion which has been evident throughout the lead up to these demonstrations and of course throughout today itself."
Councillor Rob Anderson, Leader of the Council, said: "I would like to thank the police, council staff and the community for their work in preparing for today.
It was a shame that some elements felt the need to resort to violence but the police dealt with it swiftly and appropriately.
Hopefully we can get back to normal in Slough now these groups have left our town."
For a full report on today's protests, plus photos, see Friday's Express. We are also hoping to have a video report online within the next few days.
Express reporter Francis Batt was in Slough during the protests today. He has written the following summary:
"Police kept English Defence League (EDL) members and their opponents firmly apart when the controversial far-right group descended on Slough today.
About 250 members of the EDL approached Slough High Street on their way to the Town Square where they were to hold a rally, having left the train station at about 1pm and marched across the A4.
Counter-protestors gathered near the first Queensmere shopping centre entrance.
A massive team of police, many on horses, halted the EDL at the entrance to the High Street as they attempted to move their opponents back to let the marchers past.
Scuffles broke out and smoke bombs were thrown, as well as missiles. But after 10 minutes the path was clear for the marchers.
As the EDL held their rally in the Town Square police created a 200-yard 'no go' area between them and the library end of the High Street - using officers with riot shields and on horses to keep people out.
The entrance to the High Street was also blocked with police vans to stop groups getting in."
Latest statement from police, published online at 4.01pm:
"Thames Valley Police can confirm there has been no further disorder in Slough town centre, and the protesters from EDL are beginning to leave the town centre.
"A further three people have been arrested in connection with the disorder, taking the total number of arrests to four.
"The organisers of both protests had stated their intention was to protest peacefully, however it appears a small element have felt the need to disregard this and cause disruption in Slough town centre. We would urge those taking part to protest in a peaceful and respectful manner."
The EDL are making their way back to the train station. Photo here by Nick:
This just in via @TVP_Slough:
"A total of four people have been arrested in connection with Disorder in the town centre #Slough"
A statement which has just been published online by police:
"Thames Valley Police has dealt with an incident of minor disorder in Slough town centre in relation to today's demonstrations.
"For officer protection, some officers are now using protective equipment to ensure they are able to prevent any further or escalating disorder.
"We understand this could cause great concern to the community of Slough and officers are doing all they can to stop the disruption and ensure the disorder does not escalate further.
"The organisers of both protests had stated their intention was to protest peacefully, however it appears a small element have felt the need to disregard this and cause disruption in Slough town centre. We would urge those taking part to protest in a peaceful and respectful manner.
"One arrest has been made in connection with the disorder."
From @TVP_Slough: "The organisers of both protests had stated their intention was to protest peacefully, however it appears a small element have felt the need to disregard this and cause disruption in #slough town centre #Slough"
Police say they have made their first arrest in relation to the disorder. Updates to follow.
Photo from Nick of police in Slough High Street.
Another update from Supt Bowden via @TVP_Slough:
"Police are deploying in protective equipment due to indications of building tension in the town centre."
"This is to enable a proportionate and reasonable response to any disorder #slough"
This photo by Ian shows the EDL gathered in the Town Square:
In the last few minutes @TVP_Slough has tweeted:
"Thames Valley Police is dealing with incidents of minor disorder in Slough town centre in relation to today’s demonstrations."
"At this stage, no arrests have been made. Further updates will be posted on this website when available #slough"
"Anyone at either demonstration is reminded to ensure they remain peaceful & respectful in the way they protest #slough"
Lots of praise on Twitter for the way police are handling the demos.
The EDL are now in Slough Town Square and speeches are taking place. Here's a photo taken shortly before they gathered there:
This photo just in from Paul. Smoke bombs being used in Slough High Street:
Reports coming in that railings being used to separate protestors are being thrown. Riot police also in attendance.
Just spoken to Ian who said the Antifascists are being kept back by a line of police, near the Queensmere. The EDL are also being held back by nearby Slough Library.
The Antifascist counter protest, pictured by our photographer Ian Longthorne. We're hearing the police helicopter is now out over Slough too.
Here's another photo of the EDL on the move:
The EDL have begun their march through Slough. They will go down William Street to High Street and then Town Square. Here's a photo:
Here's another photo from Nick. Flags suggest they are from the EDL's Woolwich division:
Via @TVP_Slough - Supt Bowden: "We currently have a number of officers in the town centre and the situation is being monitored to ensure any issues which arise can be dealt with quickly & with minimum disruption to the residents and communities of Slough."
Police have tweeted an update:
"Two demonstrations being held in #Slough today are taking place peacefully at present, with no arrests or disorder."
"Approximately 100 to 150 protesters are beginning to gather in the town centre and surrounding areas #slough"
Here's another photo from Paul of the EDL protestors. We're not sure how the man in the bottom corner got the nosebleed. Paul estimates there are about 100 people there. Counter-protestors at the train station are being kept separate by police. There are apparently chants of 'can you hear the Nazis sing?'.
Here's a photo of a counter-protestor, sent in by web editor Nick Mayo:
Our reporter Paul Miles has just sent in this photo of the EDL in Slough town centre:
Here's Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart in the town centre:
To recap, the EDL march is expected to start from Slough train station at about 1pm, head along Brunel Way, crossing the A4 and down William Street.
It will then turn left onto the High Street, and the EDL will stage a short rally in the Town Square, before returning to the station along the same route at about 4pm.
Counter-protests are also expected to take place outside the Queensmere Observatory.
Police are advising people to go about their normal lives and avoid getting caught up in the demonstrations.
They are also urging anyone taking part to remain 'peaceful and respectful'.
Ahead of the demonstrations today, Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart issued a statement saying the EDL was 'not welcome' in the town. Individuals and representatives who have signed that statement include vicars, rabbis and church leaders, parish and local authority councillors, officers of local trade unions and voluntary community groups. It was supported by Slough Hindu Temple, Slough Islamic Trust, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara and more.
It read: "The EDL is not welcome in Slough. We call on them to abandon their planned demonstration on 1 February, which risks disrupting the good community relations which our town has enjoyed for many years and which our different communities and different faiths are determined should continue. Whether or not the EDL demonstration takes place, we pledge ourselves to work together to maintain and develop good community relations in our town."
Miss Mactaggart said: "In a short time many people and organisations have come together to make it clear that that the EDL are not wanted here. The EDL's message of suspicion is designed to exclude people who are part of our community. In Slough people of different faiths, race and background live and work together harmoniously, that contributes to the success of our community. The EDL wants to stir up resentment and hatred between communities and we will not tolerate that."
You can find the statement here.
Our photographer just tweeted this photo @expressseries of more police arriving in Slough.
Officers on horses can already be seen in the town centre.
Police are also tweeting updates via @TVP_Slough
Thames Valley Police has been working in partnership with Slough Borough Council over the protests.
Superintendent Bowden and council chief executive Ruth Bagley held a web Q&A about them on Wednesday night. Here is an extract:
Q: How many protesters are you expecting for both demos?
A: 100-400 EDL possible. Counter protestor numbers unknown.
Q: Will there be police a presence around religious establishments?
A: The community neighbourhood teams will be visiting and monitoring all places of worship.
Q: Will it be safe to watch?
A: We would encourage anyone who doesn't want to get caught up in the activities to stay clear. We do not encourage spectators.
Q: Who is meeting the police cost of this operation?
A: Coming out of existing TVP budgets and operational reserves.
Q: Are there any sort of restrictions on racist language during the demo? Could we end up with racist chants/placards?
A: Any behaviour that is likely to incite racial hatred will be appropriately dealt with by police.
Q: Why is this protest march even being allowed to take place in such a multi-cultural town???
A: People have a democratic right to peacefully protest and neither the council nor the police can prevent it. TVP has a duty to facilitate peaceful protest.
You can read the full webchat here.
Slough LPA commander Superintendent Simon Bowden has been tweeting about the protests this morning.
He wrote: "We are expecting demonstrations in Slough to be nothing but peaceful today. We would encourage residents to go about their normal lives and avoid getting caught up in the activities. The neighbourhood policing team for Slough has just been briefed by myself and will now be deployed to the area. If you see one of our neighbourhood police officers out and about today and have any concerns, please stop and speak to them. Public safety is the main concern for us & the council & we will work together to ensure the demonstrations pass without any issues. I urge anyone coming to either demonstration to ensure they remain peaceful & respectful in the way they protest today."
A video of Supt Bowden talking about the demonstrations was published on YouTube by Thames Valley Police this morning. You can watch it here:
Welcome to our live blog of today's anticipated protests in Slough.
English Defence League (EDL) supporters are protesting against plans to change the former Langley Village Club in Cheviot Road into a mosque. Read more about that here.
They are due to march through central Slough from around 1.45-4pm. Click here for details of the route.
Counter protests have also been planned. Berkshire Antifascists are set to demonstrate in Salt Hill Park in Bath Road from 11am-4pm.
Other groups including United Against Fascism, the Slough Trades Union Council, Sikhs Against The EDL and the Indian Workers Association are due to hold their own demonstration at the Queensmere Observatory from 11am.
Our photographer and reporters are on their way into Slough to cover the protests.