Police say no arrests made as English Defence League supporters involved in standoff at central London demonstration
Far-right supporters of the English Defence League were today involved in a standoff with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in central London. There were several brief confrontations as EDL activists chanted "We hate Muslims" and "Muslim bombers off our streets".
Hundreds of police officers kept the two sides apart as the march made its way to the Mall. Scotland Yard said there were no arrests. Around 30 police officers in fluorescent yellow jackets walked ahead of the procession as it snaked along Park Lane. Meanwhile, a long line of officers accompanied the crowd, which filled two lanes of the road. Cars queued, with traffic limited to one lane.
Pro-Palestinian protesters held up banners with slogans including 'Justice for the murdered children of Gaza', 'We are all Palestinians', 'Boycott Israel' and 'Judaism rejects the Zionist state'. People from a number of organisations and groups, both Muslim and non-Muslim, joined the demonstration, held during Ramadan every year. Coaches brought people to the event from throughout the UK.
The demonstration's organiser, Raza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "It's in aid of the oppressed people of Palestine in particular, but the idea of al-Quds is more general than that. It's for people who have been oppressed. We look through the prism of Palestine and the kinds of things that have happened to the Palestinian people. We have come out to say that we are with them."
Asked about opposition to the rally, Kazim said people including supporters of Israel usually protested. But with them, he said, were "the BNP, the EDL, the racists, the extremists - all of this unholy alliance have got together" to say oppression should continue. We are going to say: 'No, that this is not going to happen'. That is why we are here – to raise our voices against that," he added.
Motahare Yadegarfar, a 23-year-old pro-Palestinian demonstrator who had travelled to the march from Manchester, said: "We are gathered here to say we want the end of the occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza. We want Israel to stop killing innocent people."
She said anti-Islamic opposition to the rally was based on ignorance.
"There are some Muslim extremist groups who do things that are not Islamic," she added. "There is a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance. If they [anti-Islamic groups] got to understand what this [protest] is about, I don't think they would oppose it."