Police keep far right away from Muslim marchers
Far-right extremists gather in London’s Piccadilly Circus to shout abuse at the Al Quds Day marchers
Fears of violent clashes between far-right demonstrators and Muslims on a march in central London proved unfounded after a massive police operation kept them apart.
About 1,000 people took part in the annual Iranian-backed Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march on Sunday.
The far-right groups March for England, Stop The Islamification of Europe and the English Defence League said they would mount a counter-demonstration. The EDL was involved in ugly scenes in Birmingham two weeks ago, when 90 people were arrested, and demonstrated at a mosque in Harrow last Friday.
Police initially responded by lining up the small number of EDL demonstrators who appeared at the march and searching them. They were then marched into a fenced-off area around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.
Bizarrely, they shared this makeshift pen with a group of Iranians demonstrating against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At one point the two groups joined their banners together.
The marchers started at Marble Arch, wound their way down Park Lane, into Piccadilly and Piccadilly Circus. Police lined both sides of the road as the two groups exchanged taunts and insults.
A rally and speeches at the end of the march was moved by the Greater London Authority from Trafalgar Square to Waterloo Place on Pall Mall. The march organisers accused the Greater London Authority of bowing to pressure from the far-right groups.
As the Al Quds marchers drew level with the Eros statue, far-right demonstrators unfurled an Israel flag and waved it at the people walking past, who responded by waving a variety of pro-Palestinian flags and placards.