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Debate rages over plans for Orange Order march through Gillingham

A planned Orange Order march through the streets of Gillingham has created a storm of controversy.

One thousand members of the Protestant organisation are preparing to hold its first Kent parade in the town on Saturday afternoon.

Great Lines in Gillingham
Great Lines in Gillingham

Motorists face traffic gridlock with more than a dozen road closures and up to 5,000 football supporters due to flood the area when Gillingham FC’s home match against Burton finishes.

A counter-rally is being planned by protestors to take place simultaneously in The Strand, Gillingham.

Medway Police said its officers are monitoring events, but that "there is no cause for concern".

A spokesman said: "We have been assured by the Orange Order that there won't be any trouble and it will be a peaceful event.

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"We are aware of the plans for The Strand, but we are not concerned and are not stepping up our operation.

"We are not anticipating any problems as a result of the march, but if anyone does act outside of the law they will be dealt with accordingly."

Some residents are angry that the first they knew of the parade was when they read about it on the Medway Messenger’s website. However, police said they expected to only have to close roads for short periods.

Wreaths are due be laid at the Naval Memorial, on the Great Lines, in memory of the Orange Order’s Kent members who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

The service will take place at 2.30pm before a parade, including about 10 bands, leaves the Malborough Road open space at 3pm. It is due to return to the Great Lines at 4.30pm.

The following roads will be closed while the parade passes through: Marlborough Road, Brompton Road, Prince Arthur Road, Medway Road, Richmond Road, Saunders Street, Victoria Street, Balmoral Road, Duncan Road, Nelson Road, Stopford Road, Canterbury Street, Paget Street.

The Orange Order is a Protestant organisation that regards itself as defending civil and religious liberties of Protestants.

It is best known for its parades in Northern Ireland and many senior unionist politicians are members.

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