ORGANISERS of tomorrow's anti-fascist rally in Edinburgh have urged police to come down hard on right-wing protesters if they gather in the city centre during the march.
Rally organisers praised police tactics used at a similar march in Glasgow in November, where members of the SDL and its allied group, the English Defence League, were closely corralled by officers.
Organisers of the Scotland United rally also attacked English police for being too permissive when they allowed 1,500 members of the EDL to protest in Stoke-on-Trent on 23 January.
The Stoke protest resulted in 17 arrests, and four police officers were injured when EDL supporters broke through police cordons.
The Scotland United rally is billed as a gathering of anti-racist groups, trade unionists, political parties and faith groups, arranged in response to the SDL's announcement that it would protest in Edinburgh tomorrow. The Scotland United organisers have permission from the city council for their protest but the SDL do not, and have not revealed details of their plans. However, police said they were aware of the League's intention to protest and were "engaging with representatives of the SDL".
Scotland United expects more than 3,000 people to attend its rally, which begins at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens at around noon. It has attracted high-profile speakers including Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and city leader Cllr Jenny Dawe. Supporters will then march through the city centre up the Mound to the Meadows, with several streets closed to traffic.
Rally organiser Aamer Anwar said he hoped not to see a repeat of the scenes encountered in Stoke.
"The fact that the EDL was able to put some 1500 thugs onto the streets of Stoke should set off alarm bells. They feel even more confident when they are protected by hundreds of police officers, dogs and phalanxes of police on horseback and we do not wish to see such scenes repeated in Scotland. On this occasion we have had extremely positive meetings with the police and members of Edinburgh City Council.
"What we are saying to them is that we cannot let Nazis and racists rampage through our streets. Despite the understandable concerns, the scenes of violence at other similar events in England were not repeated in Glasgow and we wish to repeat the same in Edinburgh."
David Moxham of the STUC, which is supporting the march, said participants would be urged not to become violent even if provoked by SDL members.
"We have enormous confidence in the police, in the stewards and in our own people, so the likelihood of trouble has to be very small," he said.
Superintendent Lesley Clark said the force was confident it had "contingency plans" in place to respond promptly to any trouble.
"We have been reassuring people that while we have no reason to believe there will be any cause for concern, we will take appropriate action to deal with any anti-social behaviour and criminal activity."
STREETS AFFECTED BY THE MARCH
THE following streets will have parking restrictions in place from 10am until 2:30pm, and will be closed to traffic from 1pm until 2:30pm:
Completely closed: The Mound
• North Bank Street
• Bank Street
• George IV Bridge
• Bristo Place
• Chapel Street
• Buccleuch Street
• Hope Park Gardens.
• Hanover Street, from Rose Street to Princes Street
• Forrest Road, from George IV Bridge to Bristo Place.
• Victoria Street will be two-way from 1pm until 2:30pm.