Police hit by bricks and bottles as they try to keep apart 1,000 rival demonstrators near Harrow mosque
Riot police were struggling to contain protests by anti-fascist demonstrators and rightwing organisations outside a mosque in north-west London tonight. Officers were hit by bricks and bottles as they tried to keep about 1,000 rival demonstrators apart outside the partially completed mosque near the tube station in Harrow.
Seven people had been arrested and weapons, including bottles of bleach, a hammer and a chisel, were seized, a Metropolitan police spokeswoman said.
Police were braced for trouble after the rightwing English Defence League (EDL) and a group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) said they would converge on the area at 5pm for a rally to mark the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Unte Against Facism called on its supporters to meet for a counter-demonstration.
At around 5pm demonstrators, some armed with weapons, broke through police ranks and ran through the streets. The stand-off was still going at around 7pm, with groups of youths seperated by riot police.
The police spokeswoman said: "There have been a number of further movements by the crowd in large groups attempting to reach small numbers of other people. Throughout the afternoon police have identified and stopped a number of people believe to be heading to the original SIOE demonstration from getting to the protest area."
Witnesses said anti-fascist demonstrators outside the mosque burst through police lines in an attempt to reach groups of EDL supporters who were gathering in the surrounding streets.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "It's terrifying. This group of men came running down the street towards us and we had to hide with a couple of young Muslim boys in a shop. It's really tense and we can still hear the police helicopters overhead. I've never felt this kind of tension in Harrow, it's horrific."
Before today's protests, Muslim community leaders had expressed frustration that their mosque had become the focal point for the rally and had urged demonstrators to protest peacefully. The EDL has held several similar rallies throughout the summer. More than 30 people were arrested last weekend at a similar portest in Birmingham.