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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
booksNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015