Police arrest 35 at Birmingham protest

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The Independent Online

Police are today considering applying for injunctions barring troublemakers after 35 people were arrested following a city centre clash.

Disorder erupted in Birmingham last night as anti-fascists and protesters against Islamic fundamentalism held rival demonstrations.

The English and Welsh Defence League and Casuals United and campaign group Unite Against Fascism met in scenes of confrontation after organising separate protests near the city's Bullring shopping complex.

Today Chief Inspector Mark Payne, from West Midlands Police, said there were 35 arrests, mainly for disorder.

Three people were injured and there were several reports of damage, including a car.

He said the force will consider applying for injunctions to stop troublemakers travelling to the West Midlands.

Ch Insp Payne said: "As part of this investigation, police will be studying photographs and video images and will be arresting and prosecuting anyone identified found to be engaged in acts of criminality.

"We will also look at applying for injunctions to prevent people travelling to the West Midlands who are intent on causing trouble."

He said the number of arrests may increase as investigations continue, and more reports come in to police.

"The events of yesterday are a very rare occurrence and normal city centre life resumed within a short space of time, he added.

"I want to reassure all members of the community that the city centre is, and will continue to be a safe place to live, shop and visit.

"It is important to be aware that West Midlands Police have no powers to ban or stop peaceful protests and would not seek to do so.

"However, if criminal acts or racially aggravated incidents are reported, then police will arrest and prosecute anyone found to be responsible."

Today Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, condemned both groups involved in the clash for putting innocent people at risk.

He said: "My issue is not just that it took place, but that it took place in the city centre environment where families and children were just going about their normal lives.

"They are totally there to disrupt all normality and put people at risk of injury, and maybe even life.

"There's also the damage that is caused to property, which at this time of a recession can be damaging to businesses.

"To put all that at risk I think is ridiculous and I think we ought to be better equipped to deal with these things.

"I firmly believe in the right for people to protest but to do it peacefully. These people have shown they cannot do that so they shouldn't be given any licences to protest."

Police yesterday said although no formal request to march was submitted, they were aware of a group who planned to visit Birmingham to protest against Islamic fundamentalism.

Discussion and planning on online social networking sites led police to believe the group involved was the English and Welsh Defence League, or Casuals United.

A spokesman said it was aware of speculation that the group is linked to the British National Party (BNP), but no information or intelligence had been received to support that.

Police said the counter protest was organised by Unite Against Fascism, whose leaders co-operated with police throughout planning for the event.