Hundreds of people from Exeter Together marched in protest today against the English Defence League (EDL).
Exeter Together protesters marched from Belmont Park to Bedford Square from about 11am this morning.
The 700 strong marchers arrived in Bedford Square and joined together in a variety of music, poetry and speeches.
The EDL’s march ended with speeches in Northernhay Gardens which were closed to members of the public by Police.
EDL marchers came dressed in burkhas, balaclavas and masks with the St. George’s cross on their face.
Police estimate that the EDL event attracted fewer than 250 supporters despite bringing in members from EDL groups elsewhere in the country.
Police have arrested four people in connection with today’s marches including Kutis Coyle, 21 an Exeter man who was arrested last night and charged with possession of an offensive weapon and what is suspected to be cocaine.
Mr Coyle has been bailed and is expected to appear at Exeter’s Magistrate’s court on 3 December 2013.
Another unnamed man, a 30 year-old from the Whipton area of Exeter was arrested today also for possession of an offensive weapon. He remains in Police custody this afternoon.
A 48 year-old from Exeter and a 49 year-old from Surrey were arrested for drinking offences in connection with the marches.
Representatives from the City Council, unions, churches and charitable groups across the city turned out to support Exeter Together against the EDL.
Among those at the march was City Council leader Pete Edwards, he said: “I think it important that everybody in Exeter, especially the leadership in Exeter on the council come here and support the people.
“It’s a big statement, there must be over a thousand people, who are saying that they don’t want the EDL in Exeter and I hope they get the message.
“I feel that multiculturalism is the only way to go. We’ve got a lot of people in this country, from all over the world and it has always been like that.
“In World War Two we had people from all over the world from every race, we had a Polish squadron out at the airport who fought with us against the fascists.
“[The EDL] has no place in Exeter and I hope they get the message and don’t return.”
In Belmont park where the Exeter Together march began, Cllr Moira McDonald, said: “As an immigrant from Zimbawe who has always felt welcome here and who loves the tolerance and diversity in this country this is absolutely where I have to be today. ‘No to Bigots’ is essentially our message.
“After Exeter Respect in June to come here now, in much colder weather, is like a continuation of that really good commitment in this city.
“I read that the EDL is here because of things like the Arabic study centre and so on. The University has answered those criticisms by the EDL, amply and justifiably and i think its a very thin excuse by the EDL to come and stir-up trouble.
“I think we need to be doing is not just be reacting on today on the march but to take care on the coming months, so that if there is any bubbling up of anything left behind in the wake of the EDL, we can firmly deal with that as well.”
Rev Jane Ollier, vicar at St. Mark’s church said: “I’m marching against the English Defence League coming because I don’t believe in their ideology and we have good peaceful relationships between all the different groups in the city and we want to keep that. We don’t want people living in fear.”
One of the more vocal groups at the Exeter Together march was the English Disco Lovers- a group which hopes to reclaim the abbreviation of EDL.
The group uses social media to gain support and has over 58,000 likes in support on its’ facebook page.
English Disco Lover, Joe ‘Yeti’ Towler, said: “We’re now the highest rated EDL on facebook and google.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is replace something negative with something positive”.