Six anarchists were arrested in a street fight after they discovered BNP activists had duped a vicar into letting them use his church hall for a rally by saying it was a "book club" meeting.
The six were part of a group of about 30 supporters of the Antifa anti-fascist group who had been lying in wait for the British National Party in Bethnal Green on Sunday. The anarchists had found out that some 40 BNP members, including former Millwall councillor Derek Beackon, were staging a strategy rally in the church hall of St John on Bethnal Green.
They tipped off the rector, the Rev Alan Green, who had been told by the person reserving the hall it was for a "book club" discussion. When Mr Green called the group and asked them to leave, the BNP refused. The vicar then called the police.
As six officers escorted the BNP out of the hall, the anarchists pounced sparking a running battle with cops who called in back-up units and used CS spray to fight back.
An Antifa spokesman told the Advertiser: "We had about 40 of our people in the area, but we didn't want to cause problems for the church, so we waited outside for the fascists to come out. We told them they weren't welcome in east London and not to show their faces again."
The Advertiser understands the BNP's meeting was called to drum up support for a new electoral offensive, and possibly a re-formed branch in Tower Hamlets, before next May's European polls.
The Antifa spokesman said: "Getting elected in the London elections has given them confidence and they're slowly marching back into old territory in the city."
Vicar Mr Green, chair of the Tower Hamlets Inter-Faith Forum and one of the most respected religious leaders in the East End, said he was "disturbed" by the incident. He said: "We were told it was a book club, but it was quite clear after the meeting started that this was nothing of the sort. I could hear them from my office near the hall, it was a political rally. When it was quite clear they weren't going to leave, I called the police. I only found out later there had then been fighting."
He also pledged to vet groups wanting to use the hall, which is let out free of charge, more carefully. He added: "They booked under false pretences. We have quite an open policy, but in future I think someone will have to be present when new groups arrive. Extremists are not welcome here."
BNP spokesman Simon Darby said speakers at Sunday's rally included former national organiser Richard Edmonds, Barking councillor Bob Bailey and author Jonathan Bowden. Mr Darby said: "It's a sad reflection of the times that we should have to book legitimate meetings under a false name and then be intimidated and violently attacked by left wing, politically motivated stooges."
The six anti-fascists arrested, aged between 19 and 29 and including one woman, were detained overnight, police said. Five were released on police bail and no further action will be taken against the 19-year-old.
East London Advertiser