The English Defence League march through Preston has begun, with turnout lower than expected.
Police had predicted 150-200 EDL members would travel to the city for today’s demo, but as the marchers moved off the numbers appeared to be smaller than that.
There is a heavy police presence in the city due to concerns about security.
One shopper in the city centre this morning, a 62-yr-old man from Deepdale, said: “There are a lot of Asians where I live, they’re OK. I’ve never had any trouble with them.
“Everybody’s got a right to protest but what they EDL protesting about I don’t really know. I don’t see what the Asians have done, they pay their taxes.”
A 50-year-old man from Goosnargh added: “I’ve heard about what’s going on, I’m just amazed there are so many police around, I must have counted 25 police vans, it’s crazy.
“I suppose as long as the march is peaceful it’s OK, but it ties up a lot of resources. We’re paying for this at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, traders at Preston’s covered market were left counting the cost of a ruined day’s trading.
Catherine Fludder has been a trader for 20 years selling games at the covered market
She said: “I think it’s a no go today, we’ve got the rain and wind, the EDL and football.
“It’s quite frightening. We have left the car on today so we can pick up quick if there any trouble.
“But if you don’t come down and you’re self employed, nobody pays your wages.
“I think it’s a hell of a lot of money on this policing, it’s absolutely ridiculous all the money it costs.
“Customers are not going to come out, they’re too scared to come in to town, its absolutely dead.
“You’re not going to come in to town if you think there’s trouble. You come in to town for relaxation and shopping, especially bringing kids.
Kath Jenkins runs Kath’s Fabrics at the market.
She said: “I’ve done nothing this morning. All of the police vans will put people off.
“I don’t agree with the march, but its a free country, although we could do without it.
“God knows how much it’s costing.”
But another trader, who did not want to be named but who has run the wool stall for over 40 years, added: “I’m not bothered. I had to come anyway, you can’t just give it up
“Some traders have stayed off, quite a few of them, but I’m not bothered.
“We didn’t notice anything last time the EDL were in town, but I think there more going on this year.
If there’s trouble we’ll be off.”
The EDL are planning a demonstration from 12 noon today in the city centre.
The city is also hosting a ‘One Community’ event to promote diversity and tolerance.
There are a number of road closures around the city centre and a heavy police presence, but Preston Police have moved to reassure the public that the city is open for business.
Roads closed include Birley Street, where the EDL supporters are planning to gather, Bishopsgate and Lancaster Road near the covered market.
The One Community event will be held on the Flag Market from 12 noon and includes food, balloons, entertainment and red roses with messages of peace and love – which will be handed out to passers-by.
The EDL says it is protesting in Preston as it is a ‘creeping Sharia city’.
The group references claims in national newspapers that the Deepdale area of Preston is a ‘no go area’ for non-Muslims.
The claims have been widely dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ by city police, faith leaders, community groups and civic leaders.