Thousands expected at EDL march in Bristol

Thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Bristol today in one of the largest police operations in years. The English Defence League will hold a national demonstration in the city centre this afternoon while, at the same time, an opposing demonstration will be happening just a short distance away.

Businesses say the marches mean they are losing business Credit: ITV West Country

The counter protest by a group calling itself We Are Bristol also comes as a third major event, a Gay Pride festival is held in the city centre. Some businesses near Queen Square, where the EDL rally is being held, are sacrificing a busy day's takings by closing down for fear of trouble.

I will lose money by closing but the safety of my staff come first. The police have said they'll do their best to protect my property. I just hope I have business to return to on Sunday.

– Kim Norris, cafe owner

The general consensus is there will be trouble. I don't know why it's been allowed. Why risk it?

– Tom Waghorn, business owner

A police operation costing £500,000 and involving 1,000 officers, will seek to contain EDL marchers and those supporting a rival demonstration by a group called We Are Bristol which opposes the EDL's presence in the city.

There has been talk for some weeks of a counter-protest against EDL and I am pleased that the organisers have discussed and agreed their plans with us. Neither march goes into the central area of the city which means people can come into Bristol on Saturday confident that they will be able to shop, socialise and relax in the city centre.

– Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham
The police operation to contain the marches is costing £500,000 Credit: ITV West Country

Muslim leaders in Bristol have added their voice to calls for calm.

We have requested that anyone wishing to join the counter protest should do so to express themselves in a peaceful and meaningful way. The diverse Muslim community in Bristol is resilient and intends to conduct itself with our usual dignity despite the challenges being presented with these issues. We refuse to be consumed in the rhetoric of hate and division which goes against the true meaning of Islam

– Zaheer Shabir, Muslim leader

Both marches will begin at 1pm and the rallies which follow are scheduled to end by late afternoon.