LONDON: A rally against Islamic extremism in the ethnically mixed English city of Birmingham turned violent late Saturday as protesters clashed with counter-demonstrators. Police reported more than 30 arrests.
Trouble broke out when protesters from the English Defence League, a group which says it is opposed to ‘militant Islam’ in Britain, were met in Birmingham’s downtown area by anti-fascist activists and counter-demonstrators.
Sky News television footage showed police confining members of the English Defence League inside pubs as counter demonstrators held up placards and shouted slogans nearby. The broadcaster said many of the protesters were loaded onto buses and subsequently arrested.
It also showed footage of counter-demonstrators of South Asian descent throwing objects, running down streets and clashing with police. One clip showed passers-by screaming and running for cover as they overran a downtown street.
Police were able to quell ‘pockets of disorder by several groups of 20 to 30 men,’ West Midlands Police spokeswoman Det. Chief Inspector Sue Southern said. About 200 people were involved in the clashes, she said in a statement.
Television footage showed lines of officers separating groups of shouting demonstrators. Sky News said riot police from across the area had been mobilised in anticipation of violence.
Birmingham, a city of about 1 million where nearly a third of the population is non-white, had seen similar scenes last month when a demonstration by the English Defence League turned ugly. The group blames counter-demonstrators for inciting violence at its rallies. It has promised protest marches in other cities, including one next month in Manchester. —AP