Violent clashes in capital as hundreds take to London streets in far-right march
Democratic Football Lads' Alliance supporters clashed with anti-fascists in central London leading to one confirmed arrest
Members of the far-right broke through police lines and clashed with anti-fascist protesters on Saturday as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of London in support of the Democratic Football Lads' Alliance (DFLA).
Far-right protesters branded the police "scum", "pigs" and "c**ts" as they broke through police cordons close to Trafalgar Square - near to the march's proposed end point - with the Met confirming an arrest was made for common assault in the wake of violent clashes between the DFLA and opposition groups.
Strict time limits and routes were announced by police in advance of the march, however the measures failed to curb violence. DFLA supporters met at 1pm close to Hyde Park Corner, with groups made up from small numbers of supporters of West Ham, Tottenham, Arsenal and Birmingham, among others, chanting "we want our country back” and "oh, Tommy Tommy, Tommy Tommy Tommy Robinson" before descending onto Whitehall.
In the initial stages of the march, organisers attempted to shutdown far-right slogans by maintaining a "silent march" against “rape gangs and groomers”, “veterans treated like traitors” and "establishment paedophile rings", according to the group's Facebook event. However, aggression grew as the DFLA march neared an anti-fascist counter-protest backed by trade unions, Jeremy Corbyn-supporting faction of the Labour party, Momentum, and Unite Against Fascism.
Lines of riot officers, and police horses and vans attempted to hold back members of the far-right group as they broke through lines and chanted in support of Tommy Robinson and Donald Trump. Meanwhile, anti-fascists only metres away were surrounded on all sides by the force as they chanted "Nazi scum, off our streets".
As police battled to contain the opposing factions, smaller, splinter-groups broke off away from the main protests. At Parliament Square, the planned site of the counter-demonstration, police formed a cordon around anti-fascists as members of the far-right threw objects and branded the counter-protesters "paedophiles".
Hostility to the media and authorities was increasingly apparent once the DFLA protest reached its proposed conclusion close to Parliament Square. Speaking from the stage a DFLA organiser announced that one of the group's planned speakers had been held by police, leading to a delay in their taking to the stage. From there the organiser pointed to a cameraman in the crowd branding them a "BBC paedophile", before taking aim at the police and anti-fascist activists.
"This is what happens when you do things properly," he added to the crowd. "You do realise we were set up today, don't you? They promised us [the counter demonstrators] would be nowhere near us. Now, next time they have a protest, we will be there with them."
The march represented one of the biggest mobilisation of far-right supporters in London in recent years. The "anti-extremist" DFLA formed in the wake of the string of terror attack last summer, including the Manchester arena bombing and Westminster Bridge terror attack, but quickly morphed to adopt a number of extreme-right positions. A protest in Sunderland earlier this year was attended by UKIP leader Gerard Batten.
Ahead of the protest, a spokesperson for left-wing group Momentum had promised a "firm opposition" to the DFLA demonstration in London.
“In the US and Europe, the far-right is on the march. From Steve Bannon and Donald Trump in the US to the rise of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Marine Le Pen in France, the far right is at its strongest across the western world since the 1930s," they added.
"In the UK the Johnson-Mogg faction of the Tory party legitimise the far-right racism pedalled by Tommy Robinson and his supporters whilst groups such as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) are hijacking our football clubs to spread vile Islamophobia.
"Last year saw a record number of anti-Muslim street attacks and the number of far-right terrorists in our prisons has tripled. Violent, far-right groups like the DFLA are a danger to our country. We cannot sit idly by whilst they mobilise."
The demonstration follows a resurgence of the extreme-right in the UK.
Last month a 29-feet long blimp of Sadiq Khan was flown in Parliament Square, attracting various sects of the British far-right, and those protests followed the ransacking of a socialist bookshop by the hard-right and subsequent suspension of UKIP members. A YouGov poll recently found that twenty-four percent of voters would now support an "explicitly far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party".