The EDL can come but they are not welcome

Dear Sir,

The right to peaceful protest lies at the heart of democracy. It gives those who feel disenfranchised a voice and can make those in power listen.

But one of the side-effects is that sometimes we have to put up with people we disagree with.

The EDL has decided to come to Manchester this weekend. The law protects the right of anyone to come to Manchester and the law protects the right of anyone to protest peacefully.

They can come – but they aren’t welcome.

Greater Manchester is a place that is proud of its diversity, proud of its inclusion and – most of all – proud of its welcoming spirit.  Manchester is renowned across the world as a place where people are made to feel at home wherever they come from. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be a good Mancunian and for that matter, a good Briton.

But we can’t welcome people who spew hatred and racism.  That’s the EDL’s message, distinctly un-English and certainly un-Mancunian. It is in stark contrast to the vision of hope and acceptance that runs through Manchester’s DNA. Despite abhorring their views, our great tradition of protest, free speech and democracy means we do have to tolerate their presence, even though it is distasteful.

So how do we respond to the EDL? What is a good Mancunian response? We strongly believe that the best thing to do is to simply ignore them. Come into Manchester as usual on Saturday: go to the cinema, go shopping, go for a meal, go for a drink and just don’t acknowledge the small band of people who have nothing to do with this city or what it stands for.

Turn your back as they have their moment of noise and be assured that they will go back where they came from soon enough. Our police and city council are well versed in dealing with these matters and have a clear plan in place to minimise disruption to the city. They can be trusted to protect us.  They have also made clear they will not tolerate any violence and action will be taken against anyone who breaks the law.

Events such as these are highly emotive and sensitive and polarise views of individuals.  It is important that those seeking to counter-demonstrate do so lawfully, responsibly and in the spirit of the ideals they come in the name of.

But the last thing the EDL wants is to be ignored. The clearest signal we can send is to do just that.

Signed:

Tony Lloyd
Police and Crime Commissioner

The Right Reverend Terence Brain
Bishop of Salford

The Right Reverend Mark Davies
Bishop of Middleton

Raja Kaushal
Trustee, Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple

Imam Ahmad Nisar Beg Qadri
Secretary General, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board

Frank Baigel
President of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region

Bishop Doyé Agama
Apostolic Pastoral Association

Rev Andrea Jones
Area Dean, Manchester

Lucy Powell MP
Manchester Central constituency

Sir Richard Leese
Leader, Manchester City Council

Councillor Simon Wheale
Leader of Liberal Democrat Group and Opposition, Manchester City Council

Councillor Pat Karney
City centre spokesperson, Manchester City Council

Councillor Afzal Khan CBE
Chair, Manchester Council of Mosques

Councillor Jim Battle
Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council

Councillor Sue Murphy
Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council

Councillor Bernard Priest
Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, Manchester City Council

Vaughan Allen
Chief Executive, Cityco

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