Two Britain First activists have been banned from entering London and going within 250m of any mosque in the UK after an anti-Islam protest in East London descended into violence. Supporters of the Christian right-wing political party were involved in a volatile stand-off with opponents on Saturday (9 April) after staging a demonstration outside East London Mosque.
Footage posted on social media showed police trying to break up fights as people were kicked, punched and thrown to the ground. One clip shows an unknown assailant launch a flying kick into what appears to be a Britain First supporter as the group was pelted with eggs.
Britain First leaders Paul Golding, 34, and Jayda Fransen, 30, who were carrying "No More Mosques" banners and union jack flags, said they were set upon by "around 150 aggressive Muslims". Representatives for the mosque accused the group of "provoking and attacking members of the community".
The Met Police arrested two Britain First supporters after the unrest – a 52-year-old man on suspicion on assault and a 41-year-old man on suspicion of going equipped to cause criminal damage. Both were released without charge but subject to what the group called "extreme" bail conditions.
The pair have been banned from entering any area within the M25 and from associating with any Britain First or English Defence League (EDL) members. Bail documents posted online by Britain First also show they are "not to go within 250 metres of any mosque or premises used by the Muslim faith".
Britain First, a registered political party that brands Islam a "fascist ideology", accused the police of being "Muslim collaborators" and said they had failed to arrest any individuals they claimed attacked their activists.
The demonstration was the third the group had staged outside East London Mosque in the past two months. A Britain First protest on 12 March required a wall of police officers to separate opponents to prevent violence from spilling out onto the streets. The group eventually left on police orders.
The unrest had prompted calls from the mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, and the leaders of East London Mosque for Britain First to be banned from entering the borough, accusing them of holding "racist" and "provocative" protests. Mayor Biggs urged senior police commanders to "consider all actions to prevent violence coming to our streets... [including] bans and injunctions".
Similar calls have been made by community and faith leaders in Luton, where Britain First has held its controversial "Christian patrols" that see supporters carry religious crosses and hand out anti-Islam literature.
But attempts by Bedfordshire Police in 2015 to seek a High Court injunction banning Golding and Fransen from entering Luton failed. The same police force has since managed to ban the pair from the town after arresting them on suspicion of wearing a political uniform in February and using bail conditions to prohibit them from entering Luton.
On Tuesday (12 April), Tower Hamlets Council and the Met Police said they were considering using new legal powers, known as 'Community Protection Notices', to curb Britain First's activities. Passed in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the measures are intended to "prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community's quality of life".
Mayor Biggs said: "The hatred and division of Britain First has no place in Tower Hamlets. We are pursuing a Community Protection Notice, which would block behaviour that has a detrimental effect on quality of life. This may take some time to implement and we are working together with police and other agencies to expedite it.
"I stand in solidarity with all residents of Tower Hamlets, and particularly our Muslim community, who feel threatened by the provocative actions of Britain First. We must continue to send the strong message that Britain First is not welcome in any corner of our borough."
Golding and Fransen strongly deny any accusation Britain First is racist, instead saying they are opposed to Islam as an ideology. They claim their right to free speech and protest has been repeatedly curbed by the police.