More than 160 arrested at EDL Tower Hamlets march

Anti-racism protesters kettled by police after breaking away from counter-demonstration

More than 160 people were arrested yesterday as clashes broke out in east London during rival protests by hundreds of English Defence League supporters and thousands of counter-demonstrators.

The EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, was among those arrested "for incitement", the far-right group said in a message on its Twitter account. Some 3,000 police officers were deployed to keep the sides apart – and batons were reportedly used to stop protesters breaking through police lines in Tower Hamlets, home to one of Britain's biggest Muslim communities.

A police spokesman said about 160 counter-protesters were arrested after a group broke away from the official route and headed towards Tower Bridge, where they were stopped by police. There were 14 other arrests during the day for offences, including violent disorder and possession of knives and fireworks, the spokesman said.

Witnesses said free legal advice was being offered to the anti-EDL protesters. The counter-demonstration was organised by Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Facism, who said 7,000 people took part in the demonstration against the EDL.

"They [EDL] didn't come up with enough numbers and they really depended on the police to be able to escort them in an area where they were not really wanted. It really was like outsiders trying to cause trouble," Mr Bennett said.

He added: "I think that the EDL are attempting to persecute the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets in the same way that [1930s British fascist leader Oswald] Mosley tried to persecute the Jewish community here.

"The best thing about today was the mixture of people who came out. It was exciting to be here."

The EDL said in a message on Twitter that "loads more than 500" took part in its march. It added that Mr Robinson had been arrested "all because he expressed his freedom of speech".

Chief Superintendent Jim Read, a senior officer involved in the policing effort, said there had been sporadic clashes during the day and five people injured. He added that most of the arrests took place during the incident at Tower Bridge because of breaches of the conditions laid down for the protests.

"Our intention was to prevent violence and show support to the local communities and we believe we achieved this today," Chief Supt Read said. "We want to thank the local communities for working so well with us on what has been a difficult day. The key point is the two groups did not meet."

London Transport buses marked "private charter" and "not in service" were used to take away protesters from the police kettle at Tower Bridge. There were reports that charity and campaign groups' legal observers were among those arrested by police "snatch squads". "I was arrested for going down the wrong street," said one protester. "It was a political arrest."

Esther King, 23, a student in Nottingham, said her father, Dave, was among 200 to 300 anti-EDL protesters who had been arrested at Tower Bridge. "Sometimes it feels as though the police can be acting as bouncers, protecting people that do bad things to other people," she said.

"I understand these people do need protection, but the people arrested in that kettle don't want to hurt anyone. They don't want to start a fight and they have been arrested. I think it's thuggery, bullying."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee