Brexit protest: Police brace for disorder after far-right threaten to riot at London rallies

‘We’ll make Paris riots look like a f***ing tea party’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 01 January 1970 02:00 BST
Brexit: Andrea Leadsom confirms parliament will vote on withdrawal agreement

Police are bracing for potential unrest at protests by pro-Brexit groups following threats of riots by far-right extremists.

Scotland Yard said it was ready to “share resource across the country” if disorder breaks out at numerous planned demonstrations in London and across the UK on Friday.

Ukip, Tommy Robinson, the UK “yellow vests”, Democratic Football Lads Alliance and Leave Means Leave campaign are holding rallies in the capital, on the day Britain was due to leave the EU.

Counter-protesters are planning to meet them after accusing anti-Islam groups of using Brexit as a “platform to spread their extreme far-right agenda”.

The Metropolitan Police is working to prevent clashes at the demonstrations, which will be held amid heightened tensions over a vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons.

“We would like to reassure the public that officers will be ready to respond should any incidents or other spontaneous protests arise,” a spokesperson said.

“Our officers are well trained to maintain public order and stand ready to share resources across the country if any disorder breaks out.

“We will not hesitate to take necessary action against anyone who deliberately chooses to act outside the law.”

Members of the UK “yellow vests”, a conspiracy-driven group of Brexiteers, were sharing a meme on social media that threatened: “If you stop Brexit, we’ll make the Paris riots look like a f***ing tea party.”

Supporters were due to meet near the Shard on Friday afternoon, at the same time several other demonstrations were due to take place on the other side of the Thames.

Tommy Robinson was to speak at Ukip’s Make Brexit Happen rally in Whitehall, which he is also financially sponsoring through his personal “news service”.

Mr Robinson claimed people were being “betrayed” by the prime minister and “traitorous” MPs.

The anti-Islam activist, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was last year appointed by Ukip leader Gerard Batten as an “adviser” on grooming gangs.

The move sparked a wave of resignations and condemnation from Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage, who went on to back the rival Brexit Party.

Nigel Farage leads pro-Brexit march from Sunderland to London

Mr Farage called on supporters to join a demonstration in Parliament Square on Friday afternoon, which came at the end of a March to Leave protest in which people have walked 270 miles from Sunderland.

The protest was backed by the Leave Means Leave campaign, which claimed the “establishment … are attempting to delay Brexit or even stop it all together”.

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) had called its own protest in central London, against the delay to Brexit and “insults against the people of England ... not just from the EU but from the fifth columnists within our own society”.

The DFLA, which claims to oppose Islamist terrorism but has been labelled a far-right group by researchers, suggested in an online post that British MPs were “becoming worse than Nazis”.

“We must fight for Brexit, we must fight for democracy,” it continued. “The DFLA expects every man and woman to do their duty.”

Counter-protesters, including anti-fascists, trade unions and faith groups, were planning to oppose the rallies held by Ukip, Mr Robinson and the DFLA.

“Whether you’re Leave or Remain, these people aren’t having a genuine Brexit protest – it’s a far-right rally,” Stand Up to Racism organiser Michael Bradley told The Independent. “It’s an attempt to make hay while the sun shines.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said forces across the country were prepared for potential demonstrations.

“Police forces will always seek to facilitate the right to peaceful protest, balancing the right to protest with disruption to local communities,” a spokesperson added. “Forces work closely with protest organisers to achieve this.

“To date, protests have been largely peaceful and we have no intelligence at this time to suggest that will change.”

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