Police spend £6k on extra staff to cover 4-man protest

Police prepare to leave following the Pegida protest and counter-demonstration. Picture: Toby Williams
Police prepare to leave following the Pegida protest and counter-demonstration. Picture: Toby Williams
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POLICE spent more than £6000 drafting in extra officers as part of an operation to cover a protest attended by just four people, it has emerged.

The controversial group Pegida, which campaigns against what it calls the “Islamisation of Europe”, had planned a static demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament last month.

But plans to meet at Holyrood were cancelled at the last minute after just four people turned up.

A counter demonstration by the group Unite Against Fascism went ahead and was attended by around 200 people.

There was a heavy police presence on the Royal Mile and around the parliament after organisers of the Pegida demo told police they were expecting between 80 and 100 people to take part.

Police Scotland said the cost of policing the two demonstrations was £6253, including around £2000 on overtime. The rest of the money was spent on vehicle hire (£1951) and catering (£2312).

In a statement, Police Scotland said: “There are no costs involved for this operation other than overtime, vehicle hire and catering incurred.

“The majority of officers would have been in attendance as part of their normal duties.”

Pegida Scotland had invited “all patriot groups” to the event using its Facebook page after 400 members of Pegida UK attended a rally in Newcastle in February.

The anti-immigration group, whose full name translates as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, was formed in Dresden and claims to be non-violent and non-racist. However, it has attracted support from elements of the far right.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has accused the group’s members of having “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”.

Police initially said the Edinburgh event had been cancelled due to low turnout, but later said the demonstration had gone ahead with four participants. No arrests were made.

The demonstration received a significant amount of media coverage in the run-up to the event, and was even the subject of a question to the justice secretary in the Scottish 
Parliament.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page following the event, Pegida Scotland said: “As you all know, we had a few problems with times and places to hold the rally and eventually it was settled with the police that the rally would be held outside the parliament.

“We arranged to meet at Waverley Station so we could help supporters find their way to the parliament.

“Unfortunately without us knowing, a few had collected at the parliament and were faced with a large amount of reds, for which I am very sorry and would like to apologise on behalf of Pegida Scotland.

“Then the rest of us at the station were issued a section 14 and asked to disperse. This was on the commands of the head of police.

“Once again I cannot apologise enough to those who spent money to come and support us, and I hope this will not stop you coming again.”

Despite the failure of their Edinburgh event the group has said it is planning to hold another event in Scotland in the coming months.

The Capital march was drawn up after an event in Newcastle in February attracted more than 400 supporters from across Europe – although it was also faced with a counter demonstration of some 2000 anti-fascist 
protesters.

The group has been working to establish a presence in the UK, despite suffering a major blow when its founder Lutz Bachmann was forced to quit after he posted images online of himself dressed as Hitler.

Bachmann, a butcher’s son from Dresden with multiple convictions for burglary, assault and drug possession, said the picture was a “joke” but the group sought to distance itself from him, saying his resignation was the “only possibility for the movement”.

newsen@edinburghnews.com