Daily Mail… Hundreds of people on a pro-Palestinian rally in London were met by a group of far-right protesters holding Union Jacks and shouting ‘we hate Muslims’.
The supporters of the English Defence League turned up at the annual Al-Quds Day demonstration to show support for Palestinians and ‘oppressed people’.
There was a heavy police presence in Central London and the procession was met with a small but vocal crowd at Piccadilly Circus.
A line of men, some wearing Millwall FC shirts, held up a union flag and shouted at the marchers.
The men held a banner declaring ‘March for England’.
Police kept the two sides apart as the procession went past and Scotland Yard said there had been no arrests.
English Defence League activists chanted ‘We hate Muslims’ and ‘Muslim bombers off our streets’, according to The Guardian.
Some protesters attempting to cover their faces, sang ‘English and we’re proud of it’.
A group of around 30 police officers in fluorescent yellow jackets walked ahead of the procession as it snaked along Park Lane.
The rally ended in Waterloo Place, just off Pall Mall.
Police moved any potential troublemakers to a cordoned area at the top of the road.
Chants including ‘end the occupation now’ and ‘Israel is a terrorist state’ could be heard as the crowd set off on the march toward Pall Mall for their rally.
Organisers said the event had been held in the capital for the last 27 years without any trouble on the part of the demonstrators and were confident that would continue this year despite warnings by anti-Islamic groups.
Supporters held up banners stating ‘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 in the demonstration, which is held every year during Ramadan.
Representatives of Unite Against Fascism attended to show their opposition to far-right extremists.
Mark Bergfeld, 22, said: ‘We came here because the English Defence League announced they would be marching.
‘We don’t need to grant freedom of speech to a Fascist organisation that tries to smash freedom of speech and all forms of democracy.
‘All of us – black, white, Jewish and Muslim – have come together to show solidarity between the different people in our community.’
Mr Bergfeld said factors such as the economic crisis and a polarisation of society were to blame for rising Fascism.
Organisers of the demonstration yesterday claimed authorities in London had ‘bowed’ to pressure and threats from anti-Islamic groups by ruling it could not take place in its traditional Trafalgar Square venue.
The rally has a 27 year association with Trafalgar square but this time the GLA turned down the proposal.
The Greater London Authority denied the decision was last-minute and said permission to use the site was refused because the event did not have appropriate insurance.
Organisers blamed the decision on threats made by far-right groups such as the English Defence League, which issued a call to members to descend on the rally to oppose it.
Organiser Raza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: ‘At the last minute after months of negotiation, the GLA told us we are not allowed to go ahead with the rally in Trafalgar Square.
‘We are very annoyed. It seems they have bowed to the pressure from people like the English Defence League.
‘Instead of standing up to their threats they have capitulated.
‘A place that was being used to raise voices against fascism is now being given over to the very bigots we are supposed to be standing against.’
Mr Kazim said the organisers were experienced and followed correct procedures during negotiations to stage the event, for which it had not been possible to obtain public liability insurance for a number of years.
Explaining why the march takes place, Mr Kazim 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.’
Of opposition to the rally, Mr Kazim said people such as 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, Mr Kazim said. ‘We are going to say ‘no that this is not going to happen,’ he said.
‘That is why we are here – to raise our voices against that.’
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: ‘The Greater London Authority has at no point given permission to the organisers of this year’s event to host a rally in Trafalgar Square.
‘The application was considered in the usual way under the terms and conditions of hosting such an event and, on the basis that the organisers have not been able to obtain Public Liability Insurance (PLI), the GLA took a decision to decline the use of the Square.
‘This decision was based on the fact that, in the absence of PLI, the GLA’s insurers are not prepared to underwrite the event which would mean that allowing it to go ahead would expose the GLA to unnecessary and potentially very expensive risk.’
The English Defence League, which claims to be ‘peacefully protesting against militant Islam’, posted on its website: ‘We urge everybody who can to come to London to oppose this.’
The dispute came as a Cabinet minister raised fears of a return to 1930s fascism, comparing modern right-wing groups to Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts.
Communities Secretary John Denham, announcing a drive to prevent white working class people being ‘exploited’ by extremists, singled out protests being organised by the English Defence League.
‘I think that the English Defence League and other organisations are not actually large numbers of people,’ Mr Denham told yesterday’s Guardian. ‘They clearly, though, have among them people who know exactly what they’re doing.
‘If you look at the types of demonstrations they’ve organised … it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke and to get a response and hopefully create violence.’
The dispute comes after anti-Islamic protesters from another organisation – Stop Islamisation of Europe – demonstrated outside Harrow Central Mosque on Friday.
The Muslim Council of Britain urged mosques and associations to be vigilant against provocation from the far right and to use lawful and peaceful means such as ensuring an ‘inter-faith response’, advising young Muslims against joining counter-protests and enlisting more volunteer stewards.
A spokesman added: ‘We agree with the Communities Secretary John Denham who condemns the far right and observes that their actions are designed to provoke Muslims.
‘The MCB therefore commends the strategy of the MCB affiliate Harrow Central Mosque who responded to the provocation by deploying all reasonable and peaceful means to counter far-right anti-Muslim demonstrations.’