Arrests following anti-Islamic protest

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The Independent Online

Police arrested 33 people during a city centre clash between anti-fascists and protesters against Islamic fundamentalism.

There were noisy and angry scenes when union flag-waving demonstrators with the English and Welsh Defence League and Casuals United came into contact with Unite Against Fascism marchers in Birmingham yesterday evening.

Two people were injured, according to West Midlands Police, and there were several reports of criminal damage including a car.

A force spokesman said the majority of the arrests were for disorder.

Scores of officers were involved in policing the rival protests, which had gathered near Birmingham's Bullring shopping complex around 7pm.

Gary Nichols watched the disturbances from his city centre flat and said he was unable to go outside for about two and a half hours.

He told the BBC: "It started off with a group of white guys who were chanting, 'England, England'. I thought they were just football fans, but then a larger group of black and Asian people turned up and it all kicked off.

"You had people burning the Union flag. People were being kicked - some of them weren't anything to do with the protests.

"It all seemed to be very systematic - groups were arriving in cars and getting involved in the violence."

Broken banners were left scattered on the ground outside the Bullring following the disorder.

West Midlands Police said they believed the English and Welsh Defence League and and Casuals United protesters gathered after communicating on social networking sites.

Footage from yesterday's event showed members singing the national anthem in the city centre.

The Unite Against Fascism march had been previously discussed with officers, the force said.

Groups such as the English and Welsh Defence League and Casuals United are said to have emerged after British soldiers were abused by Islamic radicals at a homecoming parade in Luton earlier this year.

West Midlands Police said: "A post-operation investigation has now commenced into any criminality that took place during this afternoon's protests."

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