AN ENGLISH Defence League march through Bournemouth town centre has been taking place with approximately 200 demonstrators and a large police presence.

A counter march to celebrate the town's diversity has also been taking place on a different route.

It is believed around 200 people have been taking part in the counter march.

Community leaders Rev Dr Ian Terry, rector of Bournemouth town centre, and director of Bournemouth Islamic Centre Imam Majid Yasin, led the way by holding a large sign adorned with the words “We Are Bournemouth”. 

Imam Yasin said he was delighted with the turnout and wants all faith groups in the area to unite against the far-right protesters.

“We would like to protect our town from extreme people,” he added. “We consider Bournemouth as our home and want everyone here to live as one.”

There have been no reported incidents at either march and Dorset police has re-opened all affected roads.

It's been reported that police officers were drafted in from Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Surrey.

A spokesperson for the EDL said more people had turned out than they expected.

The march, a regional event, rather than national, had gone well, he added.

"We have worked with the police to try and minimise disruption.

"We have had people from all across the south come join us today. We gave our speeches to the police first to vet them and we have worked with them all the way through.

"We've done everything we can to make sure it all went smoothly."

Before the event the EDL said people of all nationalities and beliefs were welcome.

The march went from Hamptons bar to an area behind the BIC. Police surrounded the group as they walked, with marchers chanting 'EDL'.

Many people who lined the streets were unaware of the reason for the strong police presence.

Some holidaymakers and visitors said they hadn't been told there was a march.

Coming to a halt behind the BIC, the EDL group held a rally with speeches for around an hour before turning back towards the town centre. 

Mounted police and police dogs were on the scene as the group headed back towards the Terrace Road/Exeter Road junction watched by a large number of onlookers.

The group dispersed although a large police presence will remain in the town centre this afternoon.

At the counter march for diversity, some chose to wear fancy dress.

Alan Mercel-Sanca, of Dorset Race Equality Council, said he hopes the EDL's presence in Bournemouth does not tarnish the town's reputation of possessing “rich diversity”. 

He added: "We must not let these people disturb the harmony of our town."


Tony Williams, chief executive of Bournemouth Council, who have worked with Dorset Police on a strategy to minimise disruption to the town, said: "As expected and hoped, it appears that both marches have had little or no impact on people enjoying the town, beach and gardens.

"Road closures were in operation for as brief a period as possible and traffic disruption was kept to a minimum.

"Our aim throughout, working with Dorset Police, has been to minimise any inconvenience to our residents, visitors and businesses, and the current picture suggests that this has been the case.

"I am optimistic that people can continue to enjoy a great Bank Holiday weekend in Bournemouth."

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: "Both protests passed peacefully along the agreed routes.

"Officers took an active role on the day to minimise any risks as the groups moved along their routes and disruptions were kept to a minimum.

"Road closures were lifted as soon as the demonstrations had moved from the respective areas.

"Residents and visitors were able to enjoy the town largely as normal for the vast majority of the day.

"A 29-year-old woman from Barton-on-Sea was arrested in relation to a warrant from another police force.

"We had an increased police presence today. Some additional resources from other forces have been visible, such as mounted officers. Officers were stood down as soon as possible.

"Some additional officers remain on duty over night although both groups have now dispersed."