'A pathetic draggle': PCC anger over EDL march in Wellington
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner has labelled the EDL group that marched through Wellington last month a "pathetic draggle" and a "waste of police resources" amid residents' frustrations raised at a public meeting.
John Campion also gave the public's negative response to the march as one of the main reasons the group continues to return to the town.
He said: "Sometimes the counter element to these protests are part of the motivation and the public's response makes them want to come back and provoke even more – they want the outrage.
"My view is straight forward. I would prefer the EDL and any person that wants to cause these community tensions not to come, but unfortunately the same laws and protection you have to express your views protects them as well and I'm disappointed they wanted to come back to Wellington."
Mr Campion spoke alongside Superintendent Paul Moxley at the meeting, organised by chairman of Pubwatch North Tom Robinson, on Tuesday at Wellington Town Council offices on Tan Bank.
A number of residents spoke on the issue, saying it was a "very poor decision" to facilitate the march in the Square and that outside the old NatWest on Church Street would have been a more suitable location.
Others said that "highly offensive hate speech cannot simply be ignored."
Superintendent Paul Moxley said the police understand people's outrage but have limited powers.
"There has to be intelligence of worth that suggests there will be serious intimidation, serious violence and serious damage, all of which we never had," he said.
"We don't facilitate the EDL coming to the town, they have a right to come to the town and when they step over that line of serious damage, violence and intimidation, that's when the legislation kicks in and the police can do something about it. The same rules apply to those who are counter protesting.
"I absolutely understand why something like the EDL, with offensive views, causes people to wonder why we can't just ban them but I urge people to understand the powers we have are restricted within reason."
Mr Campion added: "I think it's a huge waste of police resources. I would prefer the police to do other meaningful things for our community but I recognise that banning people who say things we don't like is not what the majority of the public want.
"A win for me the last time they came would have been that the very pathetic draggle of people that came to represent the EDL was met with indifference by people going about their day. Hopefully they won't come back as they couldn't muster up the numbers last time.
"I've heard the things they say, it's offensive and unpleasant. We are in the unfortunate position where the law is exploited by these groups that attach themselves to issues where the victims of these issues don't want them to be related."
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