Lee Rigby’s family call for calm as far-right groups plan day of protest

Relatives say murdered soldier had friends of different cultures and would not want his death used as excuse for violence. The family of Lee Rigby have urged people to “show their respect”, saying the murdered soldier would not want anyone to exploit the event to cause division.

 

Their call came as far-right groups prepared for what could be their biggest mass mobilisation in years, including dozens of planned protests by the English Defence League (EDL) and a British National party (BNP) rally on Saturday in central London.

 

There has been a sharp increase in reports of Islamophobic incidents since Rigby’s death; more than 200 were reported to a hotline in the week following his murder in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May.

 

Anti-racist campaigners say there could be as many as 60 EDL protests around England on Saturday, making it the largest far-right mobilisation in 30 years. Some of the biggest turnouts are expected in Birmingham, Luton and Leeds, and police forces have held emergency meetings to work out how to maintain order.

 

Groups opposed to the far right, such as Hope not Hate, and faith organisations have been organising their own activities. On Friday, representatives of Greenwich Islamic Centre, which has no links to the alleged attackers but became a focus because of its proximity to the murder site, hosted an event in which Muslim community leaders joined representatives from the Jewish, Anglican, Catholic and Sikh faiths to lay a wreath spelling “Peace” at Woolwich barracks, where Rigby was based.

 

It was preceded by a “tea and biscuits” event at the Greenwich centre, modelled on the much-praised impromptu efforts of a York mosque to charm a gathering of EDL would-be protesters earlier this week.