In The Media & Newsletter » Letter to press after Northampton 'protest'
I am writing to express our disquiet following the events in Northampton Market Square last week (MAY 31).
Nigel Farage MEP was due to visit Northampton on the UKIP 'battle bus' as part of his national tour supporting the 'Leave' campaign for the forthcoming EU referendum. The event was cleared and arranged with the the Market Square manager and the police were informed.
It soon became apparent on social media there would be an opposing voice at the event - initially pro-'Remain' demonstrators. This was swiftly hijacked by more hard-left activists, some from outside Northampton, and the possibility of more violent or disruptive behaviour became apparent. Northamptonshire Police was aware of this, even advising people to avoid the Market Square.
Despite this, the police presence at the Market Square was minimal - two or three constables supported by a handful of PCSOs. They were ill-equipped and massively under-manned to deal with the demonstration, and were unable or unwilling to act when the demonstrators blocked lawful access to the Market Square.
Reports indicate the initial 20 or so demonstrators were supplemented by more as the afternoon wore on, and indeed that there were more activists in the vicinity ready to add to their numbers should a confrontation take place with either those gathered to hear Mr Farage or the police.
Mr Farage's security team decided to not risk injury to himself or damage to the vehicle and called off the meeting The safety of those who had come to hear Mr Farage was also a major concern - of the more than 100 people who had come to listen to his speech, many were elderly and would be especially vulnerable should the demonstration have turned physical.
Would there have been such 'inaction' if any other political leader was in town?
I have written to the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire asking for answers as to why Northamptonshire Police failed to assign sufficient resources to police the event even after it became clear it was becoming a target for those who wished to cause disruption and possibly provoke physical confrontation?
Why did the police on site fail to secure Mr Farage's vehicle access to the market square, allowing access to be unlawfully blocked?
Why was no action taken to address the offensive, profanity-laden placards which could cause public distress?
I believe Northamptonshire Police should issue an apology to those who were unable to listen to Mr Farage and to Mr Farage himself. The battle bus has visited many towns and cities around the UK with success - that this was not the case in Northampton should be a source of embarrassment and concern.
Margot Parker, UKIP MEP for Northamptonshire
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