VIDEO: Rival Bangladeshi groups clash as Whitechapel memorial sparks violence
PUBLISHED: 15:52 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:19 21 February 2014
EXCLUSIVE: A pitched battle broke out last night between Bangladeshi groups in a Whitechapel park, with women and children caught in the middle.
Metal barricades were used as makeshift weapons in Altab Ali Park in the latest spillover of Bangladeshi politics onto the streets of the East End.
Police broke up the fighting and cleared everyone from the park, but it is not believed any arrests were made.
Hundreds had gathered in the park at midnight to place flowers at the Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument) for the annual Bangladeshi Martyrs Day ceremony.
But flowers gave way to fists as the night turned violent after a war of words between rival groups over controversial war crimes trials in Bangladesh.
Ajanta Deb Roy, an activist and radio presenter for Radio Betar Bangla, said the fighting started when one group took issue with the slogans being chanted by the other group.
She said: “They were calling for the death penalty for war criminals, and the others didn’t like it, so they started throwing threatening words.
“First it was verbal, and then they started attacking, and when they did the others fought back.”
Ms Roy said the clashes lasted three or four minutes before police intervened.
She said: “They didn’t like the slogans so they took those barricades and they wanted to beat us. They were very aggressive.
“Normal people were there to give flowers when the fighting started. One kid was crying. He was six or seven years old.
“Then the police came and threw both groups out of the park.”
Tensions have been bubbling in the East End over the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh, which is trying men accused of war crimes during the country’s 1971 liberation war.
Death threats have been received by activists in London and some have been attacked in the street.