Police make 14 arrests as rival groups clash at joint Britain First-EDL protest in London

Niamh McIntyre
Sunday 02 April 2017 08:07 BST
EDL rally sparks violent clashes in central London

Police have arrested 14 protesters today after rival groups clashed during a far-right demonstration in Central London.

Far-right protesters gathered in London on Saturday for a march called by Britain First and the English Defence League "against radical Islamic terrorism".

Britain First claimed in a Facebook post that "3,000 patriots have confirmed attendance", but estimates of the size of their crowd range from 100 to 250.

The march was called in the aftermath of last week's Westminster terror attacks, where Khalid Masood killed four people and left dozens injured.

A counter-protest has been organised by anti-racist group Unite Against Fascism, who said in a statement:

"Both groups are notorious Islamophobes whose concern is not with the victims or their relatives, but only lie in racism."

Protesters from Unite Against Fascism gather near Trafalgar Square to counter EDL protest

Police issued two Public Order Acts in an attempt to avoid clashes between the protesters, and keep each march to its designated route.

Despite these precautions, confrontations between the far-right groups and the rival march could not be avoided.

As of 4pm Saturday, 14 arrests for "various offences" have been made.

Chief Superintendent Catherine Roper said:

"The right to protest is a fundamental right in our democratic society, but this right must be balanced against the right of people to go about their day without fear of violence, disorder or disruption.

"Experience has shown us that when groups with conflicting views come together it can create tension and disorder."

What we have had to carefully consider is how to balance the right to protest with the negative impact on our communities and potential violence and disorder that may have resulted from these protests."

Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League, was escorted through the streets by police on his way to the rally, after he was confronted by anti-fascist protesters.

Tensions grow at Britain First & EDL protest as Tommy Robinson arrives

Sally Dhabu, the UAF Joint Secretary, said: "While the turnout by fascists today was pathetic, we must remember the threat they currently pose in Britain is not in numbers, but in their attempt to whip up fear, hatred, division and violence."

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