Tommy Robinson: Tense standoff with police as supporters demand release of jailed activist

Officers separate activist’s followers from counter-demonstrators in London’s busy Oxford Circus

Peter Stubley
Saturday 03 August 2019 17:17
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Free Tommy protest countered by anti-racist demonstration in London's West End

Tommy Robinson‘s supporters have demanded his release from prison during a tense, heavily-policed protest in central London.

The demonstrators, chanting “We want Tommy out” as they gathered in Oxford Circus, were separated by a line of officers and vehicles from rival groups of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists.

Shoppers, tourists and office workers taking their lunch breaks stood and watched from the pavement as the protesters moved down Regent Street waving England and Union Jack flags.

There were some exchanges with police before the march set off and dozens of police lined the route towards Langham Place near BBC Broadcasting House.

Meanwhile counter-demonstrators held a separate march a few hundred metres away to show that Tommy Robinson and his followers “are not welcome in our streets”.

Footage posted on Twitter by the campaign group Strand Up to Racism showed some Robinson supporters shouting abuse from bushes next to the route and trying to confront the counter-protesters in Oxford Circus.

Others moved away from the approved assembly point and moved back down Oxford Street chanting “Whose streets, our streets”.

Sabby Dhalu of Stand Up To Racism said: “”Today showed that all the work done by anti-fascists to challenge and expose Tommy Robinson, from counter demos to election campaigns has a major effect.

“As Boris Johnson positions himself at the head of a Trump-like movement in Britain, it’s vital we continue to unite against fascist groups and the bigotry that emboldens them.”

Stand Up To Racism claimed that the group of 300 to 400 Tommy Robinson supporters were outnumbered by around 800 counter-demonstrators.

The Metropolitan Police warned that anyone breaching the conditions set for the demonstrations could be arrested and prosecuted.

Commander Kyle Gordon, Gold Commander for the operation, said: “If you wish to protest, I ask that you do so lawfully and within the restrictions set out above, no matter what your view. Anyone breaching these conditions will be liable to arrest and prosecution.

“We will be proactive in ensuring any impact on our communities is minimised, while ensuring anyone who is intent on violence is dealt with swiftly and robustly.”

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment at the Old Bailey last month after he was found in contempt of court.

The 36-year-old, of Luton, Bedfordshire, had filmed himself confronting men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls during a video streamed live on Facebook, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

Two high Court judges decided Robinson’s conduct had amounted to a “serious contempt” and involved “reckless disobedience” of an important court order which was imposed to protect a series of three linked trials.

Robinson was told he would have to serve just nine-and-a-half weeks, meaning will be released by the middle of September.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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