Football casuals claim sparks march ban for extremist group Scottish Defence League

A previous Scottish Defence League rally in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
A previous Scottish Defence League rally in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FAR right extremist group the Scottish Defence League has been banned from a proposed march amid claims an attempt had been made to recruit 
football casuals.

Edinburgh City Council’s licensing sub-committee ruled that the demonstration – set to be attended by around 150 people – should not go ahead.

A spokesman for the SDL has vowed to appeal the decision in court, saying it could not control what was posted on its Facebook site.

The SDL had applied to hold a procession from East Market Street to the Scottish Parliament on September 29.

Leaders said they wanted to hold the event to call for justice over the deaths of murdered Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes and Robert Fleeting, who was found hanged at an RAF base in Oxfordshire last year.

Opponents United Against Fascism said they would hold a counter-demonstration, and had warned that the plans indicated the SDL, along with the British National Party (BNP) and other far-right splinter groups, was trying to consolidate a foothold in the Capital and Scotland.

However, the march has now been scrapped after the council meeting was shown video footage posted on the SDL’s Facebook page calling for football casuals to join the fight to “destroy Islam”.

SDL regional organiser Graham Walker said they were not behind the inflammatory video and insisted it should have no bearing on a decision over the march.

“We’ve taken that video down I don’t know how many times,” he said.

“We can’t stop what goes up on Facebook. It’s cleaned up every single day. We have nothing to do with Nazi-ism – that video has been removed and then reposted.

“We want people to see why we are against militant Islam so people will realise what the SDL are about.”

But William Black, of United Against Fascism said: “They [the SDL] wish to bring together all the casual football hooligans in Scotland in one group to attack Muslims – they are tattooed with swastikas.”

During the discussion, Mr Walker was asked if he would consider moving the march from the proposed route along East Market Street to Regent Road, to which he agreed.

Representing Lothian and Borders Police, Chief Superintendent David Carridice said there had been no public disorder at the last three SDL events.

He added that it would cost the force as much in resources to police a static demonstration, which the council would have no power to prevent.

But convener of the licensing sub-committee, Gavin Barrie, said the video raised concerns about whether the march could be held without incident.

“I have concerns about the descriptions in that video,” he said. “I’m severely uncomfortable with the group – the SDL make people uncomfortable.

“This video was posted in the last 24 hours.”

He added: “We will be seeking to make an order prohibiting the proposed procession.”

After the decision, Mr Walker said: “Next stop we will be making is the court. The council asked us if we would change the route and we said we’d move to Regent Road.

“The police have backed us up – we’ve had no arrests, no public disorder. What the council is saying is that the 
police cannot do their job properly.”

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com