8 Sep 2013

EDL Tower Hamlets march: 300 arrested

EDL leader “Tommy Robinson” is among the 300 arrested after an English Defence League march in east London. The vast majority apprehended were anti-fascist counter demonstrators, police said.

Police used batons and kettled some protesters as they tried to contain violent clashes between English Defence League (EDL) members and those protesting against it.

A police spokesman said on Sunday night that a total of 300 people had been arrested – a figure revised up from the 160 arrests announced on Saturday night. The vast majority were from the anti-fascist counter-demonstration, including from the Unite Against Fascism group.

Fourteen, mainly from the EDL were arrested during the day for violent disorder, possession of knives and fireworks. 286 people were arrested for breaching the conditions set on the march.

The EDL leader, known as Tommy Robinson, was also arrested and charged on two counts under the public order act, including one for inciting others to break the conditions set for the protest.

Around 500 EDL members were on the march on Saturday afternoon – less than the 2,000 anticipated – and they were outnumbered by thousands of counter-demonstrators from various factions.

Police formed lines across the streets to enforce a restriction on the EDL march to the borough of Tower Hamlets, which has a large Muslim community, and to keep the counter-demonstrators in their assigned area.

Violence contained

Despite the high number of arrests, a police spokesman said there were no serious clashes. “The police presence did manage to keep the two groups apart,” he said

About 3,000 police officers were deployed to keep the two factions apart.

The EDL had lost a High Court battle over where they are allowed to demonstrate, and the Metropolitan Police said they feared it would cause “serious public disorder”.

Lawyer for the EDL, Jamas Hodivala, had told the court that the group chose Tower Hamlets because, in their opinion, the area has become “subject to Sharia law”.

Local MPs had written to police calling for the march to be banned, fearing a repeat of violent clashes in 2011 between the EDL, police and anti-fascist groups in Tower Hamlets.

They argued that the historical violence of EDL marches, as well as heightened threats made against the Muslim community since the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby, posed a threat to community safety.