The EDL plans to rally at Manchester Town Hall (Reuters)
The EDL plans to rally at Manchester Town Hall (Reuters)

Politicians have joined business and religious leaders in signing an open letter to the people of Manchester, urging them to "simply ignore" the upcoming English Defence League protest in the city centre.

The letter also implores Mancunians to "turn your back" on the EDL march, which takes place tomorrow [2 March] and will protest against "the continued spread of Islamic extremism."

Published in the Manchester Evening News, the letter has been signed by 17 leading officials, including Greater Manchester's police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd, leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell and the Right Reverend Mark Davis, Bishop of Middleton.

It reads: "The EDL has decided to come to Manchester this weekend. The law protects the right of anyone to come to Manchester and the law protects the right of anyone to protest peacefully.

"They can come - but they aren't welcome.

"Greater Manchester is a place that is proud of its diversity, proud of its inclusion and - most of all - proud of its welcoming spirit. Manchester is renowned across the world as a place where people are made to feel at home wherever they come from. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be a good Mancunian and for that matter, a good Briton.

"So how do we respond to the EDL? What is a good Mancunian response? We strongly believe that the best thing to do is to simply ignore them. Come into Manchester as usual on Saturday: go to the cinema, go shopping, go for a meal, go for a drink and just don't acknowledge the small band of people who have nothing to do with this city or what it stands for.

"Turn your back as they have their moment of noise and be assured that they will go back where they came from soon enough. Our police and city council are well versed in dealing with these matters and have a clear plan in place to minimise disruption to the city.

"They can be trusted to protect us. They have also made clear they will not tolerate any violence and action will be taken against anyone who breaks the law."

In an editorial on their website, the EDL said the reason for the march is to "make it impossible for the government, the media or the Muslim community to ignore the concerns, frustrations and anger that ordinary people feel about the continued spread of Islamic extremism."

A spokesman for Manchester City Council said: "We are working with Greater Manchester Police to ensure that this event causes the minimum of disruption to all members of the community."

An article on the website EDL News has urged local people to stand up against the "Nazis and fascists" of the EDL and "make sure Manchester lives up to our proud traditions".