Sussex Police is hosting a web chat today to answer questions about policing for next weekend’s March for England.
The force says preparations for the march and counter protest along the seafront on Sunday 27 April are well under way.
The march will take place between the West Street and the Aquarium roundabout. King’s Road will be closed from 11am and crowd control barriers will start to be put in place from 7am.
Diversions will be in place during this time. Traffic, including pedestrians, from the access roads leading to this section of the A259 will also be redirected.
A web chat with Superintendent Steve Whitton, Dr Tom Scanlon, director of public health at Brighton and Hove City Council, and Jane Gordon, an independent human rights barrister who has advised HMIC, ACPO and police forces across the UK on Human Rights compliant protest policing, will take place from 6.30pm today (Thursday 17 April).
Superintendent Whitton said: “This is your opportunity to ask us absolutely anything about our plans for the March for England and counter protest.
“It’s really important that people understand the thinking that goes on behind this operation and the work we do to reduce the impact of the event on residents and businesses. Through this web chat we also aim to dispel some of the myths that surround the laws which exist around policing protests.
“One of the questions people often ask me is why the march isn’t banned or why it has to take place in Brighton and Hove. It is a challenge for us to balance the rights of groups with differing views and it would be an extreme option to look to ban the march.
“A banning order must be applied for through the Home Secretary and can only be taken when serious disorder, such as extreme violence and rioting, cannot be prevented with the resources and legislation available. We have never been near this threshold.
“Only a procession can be banned and there is no power to prevent an assembly. A banning order would also not just apply to events on 27 April, it would apply to all processions within the city for a period of three months, which would be a severe measure to take and could breach people’s human rights.
“In the last three months officers have been meeting event organisers, holding partnership meetings, talking with community groups in the city and holding bi-weekly operational meetings. The aim of each of these conversations is to look at how we can facilitate peaceful protest and keep people safe.”
The organisers of March for England made their intentions known to the police and the city more than six months in advance of the event, allowing for proportionate plans to be made for this event. As yet, no counter protestors have engaged with officers about their plans.
Superintendent Whitton said: “It’s very important that we work with the people who plan to come to the city to protest on an issue, which they can freely do in this country.
“By talking to us, we can work with them to make sure we have a proportionate level of policing and that we can facilitate their right to protest peacefully. If you are organising a counter protest or any protest in the city please speak to the Protest Liaison Team.”
He added: “I know the route of the march is another issue of concern and other routes were considered. However, the seafront route was decided on again by a multiagency meeting who agreed this was the best way to balance public safety, minimise disruption to the city and facilitate the right to march.
“There will be a very visible presence from officers, who will maintain a firm, friendly and fair approach, and will reflect the information we have received about the march and counter-protest.
“We ask everyone complies with directions or restrictions which may be in place to ensure officers can focus their attention on the minority of those who may be intent on causing trouble.”
Dr Scanlon said: “We are working closely with local community groups and with businesses to try to minimise the impact on residents, visitors and businesses.
“We realise the police have a very difficult task and a lot of people are of the view that this is something that the police and council could simply ban. It’s not so simple and the web chat will help local people understand a bit more about it all.”
If you have a question about the march and counter protest please join in the live chat on www.sussex.police.uk/whats-happening/brighton-protest-web-chat or through Twitter @sussex_police.