English Defence League defy Home Secretary's ban on marches and attempt 'static' protest in Tower Hamlets. London, UK. 3rd September 2011
The originally planned march by the English Defence League (EDL) to Weaver’s Field in Whitechapel, on 3 September 2011, was banned by the Home Secretary, after an application was made by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. This is the first time in 30 years that the police had made such an application in London, since the Brixton riots. Tower Hamlets council had threatened to seek a judicial review, if the march was to go on.
EDL still planned on demonstrating with a series of ‘static’ protests. As the march had now been banned, the plan was to ‘muster’ at Hainault Underground station, to travel to Liverpool Street station, where they would regroup and walk to Tower Hamlets. Unfortunately for them, underground staff at Liverpool Street station, urged by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, went on strike - forcing the closure of the station itself, in a move that was unforeseen by the EDL. They were now forced to plan their own journeys to London, although, the EDL website instructed protesters to meet at several pubs in the King’s Cross area.
As members of EDL were making their way into London, United Against Fascism (UAF) and other anti-fascist movements were already gathering in Whitechapel – a move intended to prevent EDL from marching into the area. This included groups of protesters from the Muslim community, which a large proportion of the population in the borough belong to. They were the main target of the EDL.
Almost 75 years ago, a mile south of Whitechapel, the Battle of Cable Street had taken place. Anti-fascists had gathered then to prevent the British Union of Fascists from entering the East End – at that time a largely Jewish area. Chants of “they shall not pass” could be heard again today, like an echo from 1936.
When news of EDL’s descent into the City of London reached anti-fascist protesters in the East End, the protesters moved farther west on Whitechapel Road. At the border of the City, police cordoned off the area to prevent the two from meeting. City of London and Metropolitan Police forces were supported by various other police forces from, not only England, but also Scotland and Wales. Most of them were dressed in riot gear.
When EDL marchers arrived, they were prevented from moving east by a police cordon at Aldgate. Likewise, the anti-fascists were prevented from moving west by another police cordon setup in Aldgate East. The two groups never got to meet.
Police proceeded to force EDL protesters towards Tower Bridge. Scuffles broke out within the cordon as some of the protesters tried to break through. The bridge was closed and they were marched to the south side, where they were held for almost an hour, before being released.