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Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Protest in Luton

Deborah McGurran
Deborah McGurran
Editor
The Politics Show East

Soldiers were subjected to abuse after returning from duty in Iraq when confronted by an anti-war protest in Luton.

Police and protestors in Luton

Video: Protest in Luton

Tuesday 10 March 2009 should have been a day of celebration to mark the homecoming of the Royal Anglian Regiment but it was disrupted by a small group of radical protestors.

Police had to separate them from the crowd after angry scenes broke out.

BBC East's Stewart White spoke to Kevin Crompton, Chief Executive of Luton Borough Council and Fiaz Hussain from the Luton Council of Mosques:

Kevin Crompton
Kevin Crompton: Chief Executive of Luton Borough Council
Fiaz Hussain
Fiaz Hussain: Luton Council of Mosques:


How do you believe the police handled yesterday?

I've nothing but praise for my colleagues in the police.

I thought their operation was well planned, they anticipated every move.

What we have to remember is people have a legal right to protest in this country and the police therefore have to work within the law, so there is no question, these people could have been banned, but they were well marshalled and appropriate steps taken to keep them well away from the main parade.

But they actually didn't follow the letter of the agreement with the police.

There was some attempt by the police beforehand to agree with the protestors where they could actually assemble.

The protestors did not, in the end, follow that protocol which is why they got nearer to the march than was originally planned but once we knew they were there the police took very swift and appropriate action.

This was bad publicity for Luton and presumably you try and get as much good publicity as you can?

Luton is a fantastic place to live, work, play and learn and it is sad that the occasional event overshadows that image of the town.

If you came here on a carnival day or a mela or if you were to go into our schools, you would see a very vibrant town.

One of the things we are very proud of is our diversity and the fact that there are so many cultures and faiths in this town, living together in harmony for the majority.

We just have this tiny minority of people who do not see that as a positive strength.

We do.


Has this destroyed the community feeling within Luton, do you think or do you think it survives?

It hasn't destroyed anything but actually it has strengthened the community feelings.

In Luton we have different communities, we work together with various projects and events and all this has done is to make us stronger and more determined to have good community relations in Luton and to become a role model for other towns and cities.

Do you think there would have been much support for the views expressed by the protestors?

Absolutely not...

Even against the war?

Well, I think there are two different things here.

Against the war... Muslims and non Muslims protested and many feel here and across the UK that it is an unjust war.

But this wasn't about the war, this was about our troops coming home after putting their lives on the line to enjoy exactly what we are enjoying now, freedom.

I think that was the wrong place, the wrong time and the wrong thing to do.

Army supporters
Army supporters far outnumbered the small band of protestors

The Politics Show with Jon Sopel and Etholle George on Sunday at 1200 GMT on BBC One.

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