British protesters clash with police, 60 arrested

Members of a British far-right group clashed with police at a rally in London on Saturday, despite a government ban on marches imposed after deadly riots that rocked the country in August.

Police said they arrested 60 people after scuffles broke out and firecrackers were thrown by the crowd of more than 1 000 activists from the English Defence League (EDL).

EDL leader Stephen Lennon addressed the crowd in Aldgate, east London, saying he had defied bail conditions imposed for an earlier football hooliganism offence in order to appear at the rally.

“I’m meant to sign on at a police station on a Saturday, I’m not doing that … The credible outcome is I will be put on remand in prison for my democratic right,” Lennon said.

“That’s what’s going to happen and when I go to court, if they let me out of court with any bail conditions that restrict my democratic right to oppose militant Islam, I will break them the minute I walk out.”

Around 1 500 counter-protesters from an anti-fascist group gathered nearby in the Whitechapel area while more than 3 000 police monitored both protests in the overall area, which is home to large ethnic minority populations.

At the protest police arrested 16 people for offences including affray, drunk and disorderly and assault on a police officer, London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

They later arrested another 44 people on a coach on suspicion of violent disorder after the vehicle carrying EDL members broke down in east London and there was a clash with local youths, police said.

The EDL has held a number of demonstrations around the country since it was formed two years ago, many of which have turned violent.

The protests were the first since riots erupted in London and several other English cities in August, leaving five people dead, and the government has been on high alert ever since.

Home Secretary Theresa May imposed a 30-day ban on marching in six areas of London following the violence but police said they had allowed the EDL to go ahead with a “static demonstration”. — AFP

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