Massive police presence for protest

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English Defence League founder Stephen Lennon (centre) with supporters

Thousands of English Defence League (EDL) supporters will descend on the town that spawned the movement for a protest on Saturday.

The group will gather in Luton, where counter-demonstrations have been organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and sections of the town’s Muslim community.

A massive police operation has been launched with more than a thousand officers on the streets at a cost of more than £800,000.

Senior EDL members claim more than 4,000 supporters from across Britain and overseas will converge on Luton for a march and rally.

The event has been billed with the slogan “Back to Where It All Began” alongside images of EDL members in balaclavas.

Founder Stephen Lennon, 28, said on Friday he was warned his life was in danger if he led the protest.

He has claimed he has been issued an Osman warning by Bedfordshire Police and is under police protection. Bedfordshire Police, which have been preparing for the demonstration for weeks, declined to comment on Mr Lennon’s claim.

The EDL has been controversial ever since its formation almost two years ago. The street protest movement opposes what it sees as the spread of Sharia law and militant Islam in England. Their regular protests in towns and cities across the country frequently descend into violence as they are met by counter-demonstrations, often organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF).

The movement originated from a group known as the United Peoples of Luton. They were formed in response to a Muslim protest at a parade in Luton, in March 2009, for troops from 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment returning from Iraq. Islamic activists waved banners with slogans including: “Anglian Soldiers: Butchers of Basra” and “Anglian Soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists.”

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