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149 police 17 marchers £32,000

PUBLISHED: 11:54 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:00 25 August 2010

MORE than £32,000 was spent on policing 17 extremists in a 40-minute march on St George s Day.

MORE than £32,000 was spent on policing 17 extremists in a 40-minute march on St George's Day.

A total of 149 police officers and two staff were dispatched to the National Front (NF) march in Eltham on April 18, a Times Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The turn-out of NF members was so low on the two-mile march between Eltham and New Eltham stations that there were nine police officers to each person.

Police would not reveal the operation's exact cost, but admitted 149 officers were used, each working at least six-and-a-half hours.

With a PC's hourly pay £33.28, the Times calculated that £32,231.68 was required for wages alone, ignoring the fact that sergeants and inspectors get paid more.

Greenwich Unite Against Fascism spokesman, Ade Walter, 41, from Plumstead, branded the expense "outrageous". He said: "It's a complete waste of money that could be spent on the community."

Steve Reynolds of the NF claimed it was not their fault that the taxpayer shelled out thousands for their march.

He said: "I wouldn't say we wasted the money, I would say the police wasted the money. They said they had intelligence that there would be a counter demonstration. We checked the websites and found no evidence of it."

The NF party, which doesn't think gay pride marches should be allowed to take place, told police their last-minute protest would attract a maximum of 50 people.

Mr Reynolds believes the police beefed up their numbers to discredit the party in the upcoming London Assembly elections.

The NF candidate for Greenwich and Lewisham, Tess Culnane, came fifth of ten candidates and retained her deposit by getting over five per cent of the vote.

Greenwich Borough Commander Christopher Jarratt said the operation was policed by a small amount of Greenwich officers and the majority were from the Central Territorial Support Group.

He said that they deployed extra staff because the march was near to the anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the funeral of Gloria Taylor, mother of murdered schoolboy Damilola.

He added: "We did have a small local deployment around the Stephen Lawrence memorial and to check that there were no weapons left in bins.

"From my perspective we try and do the best for community safety and confidence. Sometimes we realise there has been too many people deployed. Intelligence and information is not a perfect world.

"In a perfect world, if we can, we would be able to redeploy the officers to work elsewhere. At the end of the march, some were taken away.

"We know it is in an area of sensitivity. What we didn't want was to have right wing and left wing in violent clashes. In hindsight there were too many officers. We expected a lot more marchers."

Eltham North councillor Nigel Fletcher defended the police deployment, adding: "It is good news that not too many people turned up.

"It is obviously better to err on the side of caution. It looks like they overestimated the level of support.

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