Stewards stopped mass brawl after EDL coach run-in, mayor says
PUBLISHED: 16:51 05 September 2011 | UPDATED: 11:28 06 September 2011
Volunteers have been praised for dispersing a large group of youths enraged that EDL supporters had made their way into the East End on Saturday.
A confrontation between a rogue coach of far right activists and East End youths could have “escalated quickly” were it not for the fast actions of police and peace-keeping stewards, mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, who was at the scene, has said.
The coach had made its way into Tower Hamlets through Whitechapel Road around 6.30pm and stopped close to the East London Mosque where a scuffle broke out between EDL members and youths.
Worshippers who had come out from evening prayers were verbally abused and intimidated by EDL members, Dilowar Khan, the executive director of the London Muslim Centre centre said.
The tension reached a peak moments later when a group of youths in the area threw missiles including traffic cones at the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards the coach broke down close to Stepney Green Tube station and Mr Rahman said it was the cooperation between officers and community leaders which stopped the violence spreading.
The far right supporters were escorted onto a double-decker bus and youths at first tried to block the road to prevent them from leaving but were persuaded to move on.
Mr Rahman said: “When they could see that coach imagine how enraged the young people were.
“We persuaded the hundreds of kids to get on the pavement and let the police do their job. Those youngsters listened to me, our people and the police. If the community leaders hadn’t been there it could have been worse.”
Some 300 trained stewards in high visibility jackets were provided by the mosque and Islamic Forum of Europe during the day.
Police arrested 44 EDL passengers on the coach.
Questions are now being asked as to how the coach was able to enter the borough in the first place.
Mr Khan said: “Why were they allowed to come through the borough? It ended up being the most dangerous part of the day.”
Mr Rahman added that he would welcome a police investigation to look into the incident.
He said: “I am very disappointed that the coach came in for the safety of the EDL members and the safety of our residents.”
But he added that police did a “fantastic job” throughout the day.
Mr Rahman had been touring the west part of the borough since the morning to try and encourage communities to stay calm.
The EDL arrived at Liverpool Street at around 3pm and were escorted to a cordoned off area near Aldgate Tube station by police while anti fascism demonstrators were kept at Aldgate East station.
Latest police figures state that a total of 61 arrests were made throughout the day.
Of those, 46 people have been bailed to return to a north London police station in November.
A further five people have been charged under the Public Order Act and three for assaults on police.
Four have accepted cautions and four have been released with no further action.
None of those arrested are thought to be from Tower Hamlets.