‘No plans for far-right rally’

There will be no repeat this weekend of this rally in 2015
There will be no repeat this weekend of this rally in 2015

Fears of a controversial protest coming to Wigan later this week have been allayed as a far-right group says it has no plans to stage a rally.

Reports on social media suggested the English Defence League (EDL) was planning a demonstration in the town centre on Saturday.

However, Twitter account @EDLofficialpage said: “There is no EDL event planned for Wigan. Childish prank?”

And a spokesman for the EDL later claimed to the Wigan Post that the hoax event may have been a “prank organised by a left-winger who wants to discredit us.”

A Facebook page purporting to be an EDL account had said the march would be staged “against Irish republicanism” in response to pro-republican marches in Liverpool, among others.

The then Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, who is now re-standing to regain her seat, had said the far-right group was “not welcome” in the town.

She said: “The EDL has repeatedly tried to target Wigan, attempting to whip up fear and division in our town, as well as wasting the time of our local police. I’m sure residents will be relieved to hear there is no rally.”

Following the reports of the rally, anti-extremist groups were understood to be readying themselves for a counter protest.

Formed in 2009, the far-right EDL is known for its street demonstrations.

The potential of a rally coming to the borough had evoked fears of a repeat of the violent scenes of 2015 during an anti-immigration rally staged by the National Front and North West Infidels in Wigan town centre.

Hundreds of police including tactical aid units and police dogs were in attendance to keep the two groups apart with a large estimated cost to the public purse.

Missiles, including glass bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at anti-fascist counter protesters.

The Post contacted police to verify the EDL’s account of events but they were unable to confirm whether or not there are plans for a march.

Ms Nandy had previously said: “Despite repeated attempts to whip up fear and division, Wigan has consistently rejected the nasty, racist politics of the far right.

“I am proud of the history of compassion and solidarity here.”