SDL extremists accuse city council of discrimination over march

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FAR-RIGHT extremists have accused the city council of discrimination after it decided to ban them from marching through the Capital.

The Scottish Defence League had applied to march along three possible routes – Regent Road to the Scottish Parliament, Market Street to East Market Street and Regent Road to St Andrews House – after an earlier proposal for a parade from St Giles’ Street to the Grassmarket was ruled out last month.

Members of the council’s licensing committee said yesterday that the decision was due to fears over disruption and public disorder.

The Scottish Defence League (SDL), which describes itself as opposing Islamic extremism, said it would challenge the decision in the courts.

Graham Walker, the SDL’s regional organiser for east Scotland, said: “They are discriminating against our group. The United Against Fascism group were allowed to march – and how much damage do they cause?

“We will be taking the council to court on the basis of the Equality Act 2010.

“For them to say that it’s going to upset the public – if you look at the Regent Road to St Andrews House route, it’s non-residential, there’s no public there, so how can they say it’s going to disrupt the public?”

Councillors also referred to the “distressing” impact of the SDL’s recent messages on the building of new mosques and drew attention to a placard displayed at a march in Glasgow in February which said “No Muslims, No Mosques Wanted in Britain”.

Mr Walker said: “We will be having a static demo in the Grassmarket, and there will be a static demo every month this year. If the council want to play games, we can too.”

Councillor Louise Lang acknowledged the “more positive” engagement which had taken place over this year’s march but said: “It’s very antagonistic to say that places of religious observance are ruining opportunities for communities.

“I find that the antagonistic element of what’s being conveyed by the SDL will be upsetting and distressing for the public.”

Councillor Joanna Mowat said it was wrong to base the decision on a judgement of the SDL’s politics.

She added: “We are not here to adjudicate on the views of the SDL. We live in a country of free speech.”

Superintendent David Carradice, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “We are confident that we could manage any potential disruption and disorder during the march.”