Police Make Arrests After English Defence League Rally Turns Violent

Police made 20 arrests today after bottles, cans and other missiles were hurled at officers during an English Defence League rally.

West Midlands Police estimated that around 2,000 people attended the EDL demonstration and a counter-protest in Birmingham city centre.

More than 1,000 police officers took part in a major security operation to ensure public safety and prevent rival protesters from clashing, but sporadic disorder broke out soon after the start of the EDL event in Centenary Square.

At one point during a stand-off between EDL supporters and officers wearing riot gear, police dogs were deployed to quell an attempt to break through police lines into a building site.

Officers were also showered with broken glass, pieces of slate and other objects after EDL supporters, some wearing balaclavas, confronted police near the Hyatt Regency hotel.

A police spokesman said: "Some disorder was seen at both events during the course of the demonstrations.

"A small number of protesters and police officers sustained injuries - with one police officer taken to hospital having suffered a head injury.

"He was this evening discharged having received treatment.

"Around 20 arrests were made in total, with supporters of both events being detained for public order offences."

A number of people were injured in the confrontation with police

Speaking after the protests, Birmingham's chairman for Social Cohesion and Community Safety, said he believed they had passed off relatively peacefully.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar said: "We are obviously disappointed that the EDL chose Birmingham to host this demonstration.

"Birmingham doesn't really need this sort of attention but the police have executed a great plan to keep both groups apart."

Pointing out that other nearby areas of the city centre had operated normally and were unaffected by the rallies, Mr Zaffar added: "My message to the EDL would be to stay away from Birmingham - your message of hate divides communities and is not welcome."

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe, the commander of the policing operation, said: "A great deal of time, effort and thought has gone into today's events and it is reassuring to see that both demonstrations have largely passed off without serious incident.

"We are aware of some instances of criminal damage and a number of assaults have been reported, which will be the subject of our ongoing enquiries as we move forward.

"Most people who came to Birmingham to go about their daily business in the shopping areas would have done so without having been greatly affected by the protests, which is pleasing.

"Arrests were made where necessary and further enquiries will be made to determine if any other offences were committed.

"That said, this has been a successful operation, due in no small part to the excellent work between police, our partner agencies and representatives of our communities."

She added: "We recognise that the people of Birmingham have been both concerned and inconvenienced and we would like to thank them for their tolerance, co-operation and patience."