September 05, 2009
Posted by John P
A planned demonstration by The English Defence League in central Birmingham descended into violence as the group charged along New Street, close to the city's main train station. One onlooker said: "There were about 250 people in total, fighting and throwing bottles at each other."
The disorder spilled onto the adjoining Bennetts Hill, a street lined with a number of pubs, popular with shoppers. Dozens of riot police worked to contain the disturbance and a police helicopter hovered overhead. A police spokeswoman said there had been "pockets" of trouble but could not confirm whether any arrests had been made.
West Midlands Police said it would deal with anti-social behaviour or criminal activity connected to the protests "robustly" after a demonstration last month turned violent.
Earlier this week the force, along with Birmingham City Council, obtained an order from the Home Secretary banning protesters from the Bullring area of the city, under section 14a of the Public Order Act. Under the same legislation, Chief Constable Chris Sims passed an order restricting the protests to two locations - Lancaster Circus and Old Square. But after meeting on Broad Street in the city's entertainment district, demonstrators proceeded to New Street, around half a mile away, and trouble ensued.
The street, which houses a large number of banks, cafes and chain stores, is a major pedestrian route from Birmingham New Street train station to the Bullring shopping mall. The exact location of the first outbreak of violence is close to the city's Town Hall and central library.