Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 13:48 UK

Safety fears prompt marching ban

Luton council building
Luton Borough Council applied for the order with the police

Four groups have been banned from taking part in protest marches in Luton amid fears for public safety.

Luton Borough Council and Bedfordshire Police have been granted a three-month banning order on public processions by the organisations or associated groups.

Protest plans by March for England, UK Casuals United, United People of Luton and English Defence League had increased tensions in Luton, they said.

Chief Supt Andy Frost said the risk to public safety left no alternative.

Fear of violence

The order was granted on Thursday following an application to the office of the Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

It gives police in Luton the power to ban public processions and search people and vehicles for offensive weapons without good reason if they believe serious violence may take place.

People can also be asked to remove balaclavas and masks.

In a joint statement, the council and police said it followed "weeks of speculation" about proposed marches and demonstrations.

Problems with previous demonstrations in Luton and intelligence gathered by police raised concerns about the groups' intentions, they added.

Police said residents and businesses feared a repeat of the violence and disorder which erupted when the groups previously marched in the town and elsewhere.

Recent unofficial marches and protests have ended in damage to property, assaults... and escalation in the fear felt by residents
Kevin Crompton, Luton Borough Council

Nine people were arrested when March for England held a protest in Luton on 24 May.

The United People of Luton took part in this and a protest on 13 April, dubbing the demonstration "ban the terrorists" on its website.

The English Defence League's website states that it intends to march in Luton in September against the "ever growing population of Islamic Extremists, and the home of some of the most unsavoury Al-Qaeda supporters in the UK".

Angry scenes broke out in March when a small number of Muslims held an anti-war protest during the homecoming parade of British troops.

Kevin Crompton, Chief Executive of Luton Borough Council, said; "Recent unofficial marches and protests have ended in damage to property, assaults on individuals and escalation in the fear felt by the residents of Luton.

"On behalf of the vast majority of Luton's citizens who value the diversity and quality of life in the town, we are making it clear that anyone who wants to engage in violence and disorder is not welcome here."

Police said they would have a "significant presence" in place to uphold the ban, prevent disorder and, where necessary, turn away people who come to support any such march.

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