Five men were arrested during a demonstration and counter-protest in Bristol today.
Groups called British and Immigrants United Against Terrorism and Gays Against Sharia turned out to protest about “issues of female genital mutilation, homophobia within Islam and Sharia Law”.
In response anti-fascist groups – and the city’s lesbian, gay, bi- and transgender community, organised a counter protest.
Police arrested four men for assaults on officers and another for obstruction during the demonstrations.
A massive police operation, understood to have involved around 300 officers, saw Queen Square cordoned off for the anti-Sharia demonstration and rally, which was joined by extreme right groups the English Defence League and South West Infidels.
They marched from Temple Meads, down Redcliffe Way and over Redcliffe Bridge.
Once inside the Queen Square cordon, a crowd estimated by police as being around 65, listened to Anne-Marie Waters, who is standing for UKIP leadership, and former EDL member Tommy English, the organiser of Gays Against Sharia, give speeches.
The organisers of the rally denied being on the “far right” of the political spectrum and Ms Waters claimed that the only fascists were the 'anti-fascist' demonstrators.
Around 100 anti-fascist activists plus protesters from Bristol’s lesbian, gay, bi- and transgender community and Stand Up To Racism and Bigotry were kept together in Castle Park in a bid by police to separate the groups.
At one point those from the coalition of unions and anti-fascist groups made a surge around the Old Market roundabout to meet with the other group, but were fended off by police.
It is understood, although not confirmed with police, that there is where the arrests were made.
The counter protesters were ‘kettled’ in Castle Park and those who attended the protest said a woman had to be taken to hospital after being injured when she collided with a tree during a scuffle.
When the groups came to face to face, there were shouts of “fascist scum off our streets” and “how many of you are actually gay?” from the counter protesters.
At one point a woman with a large pink fancy dress claw lay down in front of the march in a bid to bring it to an end before she was picked up off the floor by officers.
One shouted at the police: “These are our streets. We live here. You are protecting neo-Nazis and we aren’t allowed to walk down our streets.”
Police used special powers in the city centre to ban banners, flags and placards that might incite disorder or hatred; anything that could be used to cause injury or damage and face coverings, masks or scarves used to conceal identities.