Far-right protesters ignore UK ban on marches

Image: Members of the English Defence League (EDL) clash with police
Members of the English Defence League (EDL) clash with police after a protest Saturday in London, England.Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ignoring a government ban on marches in London, hundreds of far-right activists held a protest in the capital on Saturday and some clashed with police.

It was the first large-scale protest in London since a wave of looting and riots shook it and other major British cities in early August. London was worst hit city during that four-night rampage, with hundreds of stores vandalized and buildings set on fire.

Police have been on high alert for street violence ever since, and Home Secretary Theresa May has imposed a 30-day ban on marches in six parts of the capital, including Tower Hamlets, where the English Defense League protested Saturday.

The league insists it is a peaceful organization opposing the spread of Islamist extremism in England, but its past protests have often turned violent.

The group also has been linked to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 77 people in his country on July 22. Breivik, an anti-immigration extremist, had posted admiring comments of the English Defense League online, but the league has said police have not investigated it in relation to that attack.

About 1,000 people believed to be English Defense League members held a so-called "static demonstration" on Saturday in Tower Hamlets, a poor area of east London with a large immigrant population, including Muslims, the Metropolitan police force said.

About 1,500 people who oppose the organization also turned out for a counter-demonstration.

Some of the far-right protesters threw bottles and scuffled with police surrounding them to keep control, and authorities arrested five people for offenses, including drug possession and being drunk and disorderly, police said.

Still, police said most of the demonstrators in both groups remained peaceful.