Police in London said they arrested more than 100 people in London today after far-right protesters holding a counter-demonstration against anti-racism activists clashed with officers.
Thousands of people defied the coronavirus restrictions to assemble in and around Parliament Square, in the city’s centre.
The Metropolitan Police Service said the demonstration required “major” policing operation, adding they had encountered “pockets of violence directed towards our officers”.
Television footage showed some agitators throwing punches, bottles and smoke bombs at officers as well as getting physical with rival protesters.
The Police said they had arrested more 100 demonstrators for violent disorder, assault on officers and possession of an offensive weapon.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “racist thuggery has no place on our streets” and that “anybody attacking the police would be met with full force of the law”.
As footage of the disorder was circulated widely on social media, the PM wrote on Twitter: “Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality”.
‘GUARD OUR MONUMENTS’
A protest by the Black Lives Matter group originally planned for Saturday local time had been switched to Friday to avoid clashes with the far-right counter-demonstration.
Anti-racism group Hope Not Hate had warned before Saturday that “hooligan gangs” attached to some English football clubs also planned to attend Saturday’s counter-protest.
Paul Golding, leader of far-right political group Britain First – which has seen its members jailed for hate crimes and been banned from Facebook – was among the first to arrive at Parliament Square.
Mr Golding, who last month was found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act, told media the group had come to “guard our monuments”.
An earlier march by several hundred Black Lives Matter activists through London went ahead, ending in Trafalgar Square near where the counter protesters gathered, amid heavy police presence.
Police commander Bas Javid said a number of demonstrators had failed to disperse by 4pm local time.
“There have been pockets of violence directed towards our officers. This is completely unacceptable and I condemn those involved,” he said.
Police have also launched an investigation after a photo posted on social media appeared to show a man urinating on a memorial to Keith Palmer, the police killed in the 2017 terror attack outside parliament.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, praised the force for controlling the situation, adding “millions” of Londoners “will have been disgusted by the shameful scenes of violence, desecration and racism displayed by the right-wing extremists who gathered in our city today”.