Nine arrested after “masked mob’s” march against Muslim extremists turns violentÂ Â
Nine people have been arrested after hundreds of anti-Islamist protesters clashed with police yesterday.
The streets of Luton descended into violence after demonstrators, many hiding their faces behind balaclavas, brandished England flags and chanted at officers.
Riot: Demonstrators gathered in George Square in Luton town centre yesterday over the anti-war protest held against the Royal Anglian Regiment in March
A group called March for England was said to have organised the rally as a peaceful protest against Muslim extremists. They were joined by a local group United People of Luton.Â
The mob, which included teenagers and women, held banners with slogans such as ‘No Sharia Law in the UK’ and ‘Respect our Troops’.Â
Arrests: A man is detained by police officers during the riot yesterday
Some protesters wore masks with the horned face of Sayful Islam, a hardline Muslim activist in Luton who took part in an anti-war rally in March, which disrupted a homecoming parade for troops.
But chaos broke out when a crowd of around 500 ran away from police who had been escorting the protest along its route, and ran down side streets towards the town centre.
Officers on horseback and police dogs were deployed, and policemen drew batons to defend themselves.Â
Masked: A depiction of hardline, political agitator Sayful Islam
- Recently, the Muzz had the police on the run. Now the chickens are coming home to rrrooooossst!
Groups of young men in balaclavas and England shirts chanted outside the city centre and one balacava-clad protester held a Rottweiler on a chain, while others clashed with police in riot gear.
One Asian man was hit across the face with a banner and left with a bloody nose.Â
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Focus of hate: Sayful Islam used to be a “moderate Muslim” from Luton
The nine suspects were in custody today for offences of criminal damage, assault and public order offences, Bedfordshire Police said.
Police said during the disturbance three car windscreens were smashed and a window at a take away restaurant in Chapel Street had been broken.
Last night Luton town centre was calm as police maintained a presence on the streets.
A spokesman for United People of Luton, Wayne King, said many people in Luton were concerned and annoyed that the Muslim community in the town had not taken steps to deal with Sayful Islam’s ‘hate-filled preachings’.Â Â
The 24-year-old, who wore a T-shirt with the words ‘No surrender to Al-Qaeda’ on it, said: ‘We decided enough was enough after the soldiers got heckled as they marched through the town centre by the Muslim extremists.
‘Our community has been racially attacked for the last 10 years.Â
‘A mosque in the town got set on fire a few weeks ago and it made national news but churches in Luton are regularly being set fire to.
‘We want laws brought in to stop preachers of hate operating here.’Â
Looking for trouble: Protesters in Luton’s city centre yesterday stormed the streets wearing balaclavas
Luton town centre was busy at the time of the riot with shoppers enjoying the sunshine.
Many of those who joined in the march had been drinking in town centre pubs.
- Muzz hiding behind the kiddies…
Catalyst: Anti-war Islamists protested during an Army march in Luton earlier this year – partly sparking yesterday’s response
Later on, overhead, a police helicopter monitored the movement of the mob which at one point appeared to be making in the direction of Bury Park, an area of Luton where many of the town’s Asian population live.