By Oliver Farrimond
A PLANNED march by a hard-line anti-Muslim hate group has sparked fears of violence on the streets of Scotland’s Capital.
The Scottish Defence League is planning a demonstration in Edinburgh on February 20th to protest against “Islamic extremism”.
And anti-fascist campaigners have said that Lothian and Borders Police should prevent the march from taking place to avoid dangerous clashes.
A spokesman for the Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance said: “The SDL are a fairly violent organisation – hopefully the police will recognise this and prevent the march.
“We would be concerned if the police didn’t take the SDL seriously because they are basically football hooligans and racists.
“There could be clashes if it does go ahead, but this is not something we want to happen.
“If the police don’t stop the march, we will be there to stop it from happening by peacefully blocking their way – we are going to prevent them from marching anywhere through having a large counter-demonstration.
He added: “We are obviously not planning for any violence to occur at all, we are just planning for a peaceful demonstration.
“We don’t believe that they have the right to walk through Edinburgh and intimidate Asian people and exacerbate racial tensions.”
However the new police chief for the City of Edinburgh warned anti-Muslim demonstrators that the force is “prepared”.
Speaking on the first day of in her new role as commander of “A Division” – which covers the entire Edinburgh area – Chief Superintendent Gill Imery said: “We’re very much aware for the potential for the Scottish Defence League to demonstrate in the city.
“We’re very confident that we’ll be able to respond to whatever that brings.
“We’re working with colleagues at headquarters to make sure that the planning is all in place, and we’ll respond to it as we do with all other events in the city – in a very professional manner.”
The Scottish Defence League – an offshoot of the hate group English Defence League – have previously organised marches all over the country.
In November of last year, the group held a demonstration in Glasgow that led to a large counter-demonstration and 5 arrests.
After gathering in local pubs, they formed a mob and marched, chanting Rule Britannia and brandished Scottish flags.
And ahead of the planned march in Edinburgh next month, anti-fascist campaigners have called on pub owners to refuse entry to SDL members.
Organisers have written to more than 100 pubs in the Capital, saying that those hosting SDL gatherings would face a consumer boycott.
The letter says: “We are writing to inform you that ‘Scottish’ Defence League thugs may gather and get drunk in your pub before their racist demonstration.
“This may cause problems for renewing your licence, and may result in a consumer boycott.”
A spokesman for Wetherspoons on Edinburgh’s George Street said: “You can’t stop someone coming in because of their views – you’d have empty pubs.
“Where would you stop? Like any right-minded people, we don’t agree with the EDL or the SDL.
“But if their supporters come to our pub and don’t cause trouble, we won’t turn them away. If they misbehave, we will ask them to leave.”