Two people have been arrested on suspicion of public order offences after thousands of people gathered today for an English Defence League protest, police said.
Around 3,000 EDL supporters took part in the demonstration in Luton, Bedfordshire, and another 1,000 people gathered for a counter protest organised by Unite Against Fascism and other groups - under the banner ‘We Are Luton’ - in a separate part of the town.
Bedfordshire Police said the day of action had concluded peacefully, despite “isolated incidents” of disorder including smoke flares being set off and bottles being thrown towards police officers.
The force worked closely with Luton Borough Council to manage the protests, making sure that neither of the groups congregated in the town centre’s busy shopping areas. A police spokeswoman said a group of people from the counter protest had attempted to break away from the main march but were pushed back by officers.
Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Richer said: “Overall the policing of these protests has been a resounding success and is testament to everyone involved including the community themselves and our partners.
”It is disappointing that we saw disorder from some members of Unite Against Fascism, who were part of the ‘We Are Luton’ march, who attempted to break out of the agreed protest route. This shows policing of these events is justified as there is such a large area to protect.
”The policing operation has been in the planning for weeks and the professionalism of the officers was borne out today. We were assisted by 20 forces and it’s a great example of how forces can work together in difficult circumstances.
”I’d like to thank everyone involved in the planning and execution of the operation, all our partner agencies and in particular the community mediators who volunteered to help us communicate. Their involvement really made a difference. I am confident the town is now back to normal and disruption has been minimised.”
Police said the two people arrested remained in police custody. A spokeswoman said one was an EDL supporter and the other from the ‘We Are Luton’ group.
Councillor Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Borough Council, said: “I’d like to thank Bedfordshire Police, all the staff at the council and everyone in the community for coming together and again facilitating a peaceful day in Luton.
”I was very disappointed that the EDL chose to come to Luton again today so soon after their previous protest in February last year which caused large scale disruption to the people of the town and loss of trade for its businesses.
”I would like to stress that what happened in town today does not represent the real Luton. The Luton I know is a town where people get along well together, celebrate our diversity and work together to overcome challenges.”