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Open Letter to Bristol City Council from Paul Stephenson on EDL

PAUL_STEPHENSONDear Cllr Simon Cook, Leader of Bristol City Council,

I was surprised and deeply disappointed that the city council decided not to ban the proposed march by the English Defence League to be held in Bristol on Saturday 14th July 2012. The decison by the council to allow this march to take place on the spurious grounds of freedom of speech, flies in the face of the EDL’s member’s bid to stir up racial hatred, bigotry and intolerance. Despiite the assertions the EDL make in denying they support a racist philosophy aimed at attacking Bristol’s Muslim’s communities they use them as a scapegoat for high youth unemployment, dismantling the welfare state etc. At a time of economic collapse both locally, nationally and globally, Bristol’s citizens do not wish to see racial and religious bigotry promoted on its’ streets in the name of freedom of expression. They look to the council to provide a lead in promoting fairness and tolerance. It is still not too late for you to request the home secretary to ban this march in the public interest.

Bristol has over the past 50 years held a Carnival in which its newly arrived West Indian inhabitants took to the streets of St. Paul. They demonstrated their wish to become equal partners in promoting a multicultural, multi-racial community in Bristol through the cultural expression of food, music, dance for all citizens regardless of age, race, colour and religion. It has become a symbol of peace, love and friendship. This year it has had to be cancelled due to lack of financial support, largely in meeting the costs of policing. I understand this to be in a sum in the region of £50,000 pounds. Bristol Council tax payers will be expected to pay for the cost of policing the EDL demonstration, i.e approximately 1,000 police at a cost of approximately half a million pounds.

In these circumstances I urge you to reconsider your decision to ban the march. You will have the fullhearted support of not only Muslims but I am sure the majority of Bristol’s fairminded citizens.

Paul Stephenson OBE Freeman of the City

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