Mayor and church leaders call for ban on ‘Britain First’ after demo against East London Mosque
- Credit: Oliver Impey
Faith and civic leaders are today calling for a ban on a right-wing group returning to London’s East End following anti-Muslim picketing outside the East London Mosque.
Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum and the local authority have been meeting police chiefs to try and get the ‘Britain First’ movement barred after its members besieged the mosque in Whitechapel on Saturday.
Mayor John Biggs arrived at the mosque after receiving a call about the picketing.
Forum chairman Alan Green, the rector of St John on Bethnal Green church, was out shopping in Whitechapel when he received a desperate call on his mobile from the mosque asking for help.
He ran to the Islamic centre to find pickets carrying crosses and waving Union Jacks and England flags blocking the entrance to the mosque in a face-to-face confrontation with Muslims—then found himself accused of being “a traitor” when he tried mediating.
“I confronted the picketers and pointed out they were undermining the work of the church in the East End,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“But they accused me of ‘giving away the church to Islam and allowing it to take it over’.
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“I had told our Muslim neighbours that this vitriol they were hearing didn’t represent Christian views.
“Then I told the ‘Britain First’ protesters that the church didn’t welcome them to the East End—but they turned their abuse on me.”
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs met senior Metropolitan Police commanders today to discuss “urgent policing issues”.
He urged Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons and new Tower Hamlets Borough Commander Sue Williams to “examine all options to prevent future events by Britain First” and similar groups seeking to provoke Muslims.
The Mayor is calling on the police to use legal powers to block Britain First and to break up future unannounced events.
He said: “This must include considering bans and injunctions.
“I condemn these provocative acts by Britain First, which are dressed up as a ‘passive protest’ but are clearly aimed at provoking a reaction and increasing the risk of violence.”
He has instructed the Town Hall’s chief executive Will Tuckley to see what other actions are needed.
The Mayor added: “We must be vigilant and maintain the higher ground, away from the gutter of provocation where these groups belong.”
Demonstrators had chanted “Jesus Christ is our saviour”, quoted from the Bible and shouted at the largely-Muslim crowd that they were “guests in this country”.
Police arrived in eight patrol cars, but there were no arrests. The pickets were escorted from the mosque by officers 90 minutes after the confrontation began.
The United East End umbrella group plans to mobilise supporters if the right-wingers return. They persuaded Home Secretary Theresa May to ban the English Defence League in 2011 from holding marches in Whitechapel and want get the same ban against Britain First this time round.