There have been calls for far-right groups who try to hold rallies around Lunar House, the Home Office’s passport and visa office in central Croydon, to be forced to pay for the policing of their events and other related costs.
“Let Tommy Robinson and his mates pay for it out of his media appearance fees,” said one rail passenger who had their journey disrupted on Saturday, referring to the leader of the English Defence League. Fewer than 30 people turned up on Saturday for a protest organised by a group calling itself the South East Alliance.
But in what the police described as a “pre-planned operation” (has anyone ever organised a post-planned operation?), this required at least 10 vans of police, with officers drawn from the Met, British Transport Police and Territorial Support Group, plus the use of overhead helicopter surveillance.
For a period in the early afternoon, the far-right’s protests saw East Croydon Station shut down, the tram network stopped and even Boxpark shut up.
Five people were arrested, according to the police.
When called upon to police even League 1 football matches, the Met charges the home club for the costs of staffing the event, which typically can run up to £8,000 per game. The number of police used on Saturday was much in excess of the usual presence at a football match.
Saturday’s policing costs will have to be met from the increasingly stretched local policing budget.
The far right group’s gathering on Wellesley Road drew a counter demonstration made up of an estimated 300 people, formed of anti-fascist protestors from trades unions and other local community groups.
Using a mobile amplifier, the anti-fascist protestors used the music of Stormzy and other artists to drown out the chants of the South East Alliance.
The demonstration was regarded by many as an act of deliberate provocation. It came just one month after the violent attack on 17-year old Kurdish asylum seeker Reker Ahmed, who suffered a fractured skull and a blood clot on the brain after being repeatedly kicked and punched to the ground while waiting for a bus, in what police have treated as a hate crime.
On Saturday, the police sought to separate the groups of protestors, “kettling” the groups as they escorted the Alliance’s handful of supporters as they escorted to the railway station.
As one of the counter protesters told Inside Croydon, “It was encouraging to see so many turn out to demonstrate, once again, that the people of Croydon reject the divisive bile of these fascist groups.
“The counter-demonstration was a large and disparate group made up of all ages, races and anarchists, whose loud chanting completely obliterated any message the South East Alliance attempted to convey.
“On Saturday, the community made it very clear – there is no appetite for right-wing racist bigotry in Croydon.”
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