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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot