CAMPAIGNERS who are against a march by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) next month have criticised police for not trying to ban it.

The extremist group, which describes itself as a movement against Islamic extremism but which critics say is racist, is set to protest in Walthamstow on Saturday September 1.

Last September Waltham Forest was one of five London boroughs where all marches were temporarily banned by the government following concerns about a proposed EDL demo in Tower Hamlets.

At the time police said they had specific intelligence which suggested that the march could potentially result in "serious public disorder, violence and damage”.

But now campaigners from the 'We Are Waltham Forest' (WAWF) umbrella group have reacted with dismay after apparently being told by the Met that they will not try and stop the Walthamstow march from going ahead.

Irfan Akhtar, of the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM), which has joined forces with WAWF, said: “We wrote to the Borough Commander explaining that by banning the EDL march it would send the right message to the EDL and to our communities, particularly our youth.

“Without the ban, unfortunately our congregations will feel the police are allowing these thugs to insult our religion and denigrate our values. 

“We are committed to a peaceful protest against these fascists coming to our diverse and tolerant borough, and we will be alerting our congregations to attend the community event in the town centre.”

WAWF spokeswoman Sophie Bolt said the town square event organised by her group celebrating the borough's multiculturalism had attracted widespread interest from the community.

She added: “We urge everyone to join us on 1 September to send a strong message that the EDL are not welcome here.

“It is only by standing up to these racist thugs that we stop them coming back time after time, attempting to divide and intimidate our community.’”

A spokesman for the EDL said: "It is not our intention to inflame tension, but to exercise our democratic right to peaceful protest.

"We have never sought to divide communities – we have Islamic extremism to thank for that.”

The Guardian is awaiting a comment from Waltham Forest Police.

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