Police chiefs in London’s East End are today calling for calm in the community after minor clashes in Whitechapel last night believed to involve members of the English Defence League.
Tension has been high since the EDL planned to march next Sunday to Stepney’s Troxy venue where an Islamic conference was due to take place. The EDL called off its march, claiming “victory” after the Troxy cancelled the conference. But some of its supporters were alleged to have turned up at Whitechapel last night.
Tower Hamlets deputy Police Commander Colin Morgan said in a statement: “There are rumours of anti-Muslim activity. But there is a big difference between what is actually happening and what people say is happening. I would ask community leaders to do all they can to call for calm and for people not to believe rumours which have no basis in fact.”
Organisers of a counter anti-fascist rally at Stepney Green Park are going ahead on Sunday claiming the EDL is still a threat in the East End. About 20 EDL supporters were reported to have arrived at Whitechapel Underground station last night looking for a pub, but were spotted by market traders and Asian youths.
Eye-witness Glyn Robbins, one of the rally organisers, told the East London Advertiser: “This group can’t control its membership. They came to the East End to prove their prowess, which vindicates our position. Sunday’s rally must go ahead.”
Police turned up and escorted the men inside the pub back to the Underground station.
Deputy police commander Morgan’s statement continued: “Tensions were running high between 50 youths outside the pub and a group inside who they believed to be members of the English Defence League. Officers escorted the group back to Whitechapel station to prevent disorder.”
Police were called again at 8pm to reports of EDL supporters outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, but found no sign of them. Instead, there was a crowd of up to 700 people. One youth was arrested for possessing a hammer, Scotland Yard later confirmed.
Meanwhile, Jim Fitzpatrick MP has denounced Unite Against Fascism for going ahead with an anti-EDL demonstration on Sunday, accusing UAF of accusing the organisers of using the EDL for their own propaganda when the danger has passed. Fitzpatrick told the East London Advertiser:
“The EDL are not coming to the East End any more…. Yet ‘Unite Against Fascism’ is going ahead with its march that will do nothing for the community. At best it is causing concern in the community and at worst stirring up fear and anger. Why are they not trying to reassure the community? It is dangerous for them to use EDL as a stick to stir up the community.”