Britain First has vowed to return to the east London mosque that its leaders say became the scene of "carnage" over the weekend, telling IBTimes UK that Londoners should expect more protests in the capital in the future. About 20 supporters of the political party were kettled by police in Tower Hamlets on Saturday (12 March).
The anti-Islam demonstration, which saw Britain First members carry Union Jack flags and Christian crosses, was the second to be staged by the political party outside East London Mosque in as many weeks. Footage showed a volatile stand-off between the party's supporters and locals with police standing between the two groups.
Britain First supporters were heard telling members of the gathering crowd to "go back to your own country", while some opponents responded by hurling abuse and telling them they were "Christian terrorists". The mosque says it is now working with officials to have the group banned from Tower Hamlets.
Despite admitting the day was "carnage", Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, vowed the group would be returning to the mosque in the near future for yet another protest. She told IBTimes UK: "The reaction from those who surrounded us was shocking. They were spitting, throwing missiles – I lost count of the number of death threats I received.
"It just goes to show there really is a problem in London with 'no-go zones'. We are well within our rights to hold a protest – people fought and died for that right – and their behaviour was unacceptable. We are definitely going back to East London Mosque. We have lots of activities planned for London in the future."
Salman Farsi, spokesman for East London Mosque, said he was in talks with the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, to have the group banned from entering the borough again. He said the mosque, one of the UK's largest, had endured several Britain First protests on its doorsteps already this year and that he would also be writing a letter of complaint to the Electoral Commission about the group's conduct.
Farsi told IBTimes UK: "The protest led to a highly charged atmosphere. Britain First supporters began gathering outside the mosque shortly after midday prayers and a fair inside the neighbouring London Muslim Centre meant even more members of the community were present when the protest began.
"Britain First is a vile group that spreads hatred. They were being provocative, saying Muslims were condemned to go to hell and insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and people in the community were reacting to that.
"We are working on a plan to have Britain First banned from Tower Hamlets. Everyone has a right to protest but not when those protests risk mass public disorder."
At one point during the protest the Rev Alan Green, who is Church of England Borough Chaplain for Tower Hamlets, stood between the two groups appealing for calm. He denounced Britain First as "un-Christian", echoing a letter signed by him and other church leaders in Tower Hamlets in February of last year condemning Britain First following its controversial "Christian patrol" through Brick Lane.
The protest ended when the police – who were criticised by both the mosque and Britain First for a "slow response" – issued a Section 12 public order preventing Britain First supporters moving on to nearby Brick Lane for a march. Supporters were instead escorted out of the area in their vehicles.
Farsi added: "Credit must go to our volunteers and our friend Rev Alan Green as they managed to keep the peace outside the mosque. It's because of these good interfaith relationships that our peace-loving community has been able to withstand challenges from the far right over the years."
Farsi said he supported a recent initiative in Luton – another area of London targeted by Britain First and where leader Paul Golding and Fransen are banned – which gave members of the community advice on how to respond to future protests. This included tips urging residents not to engage with the group and to "Keep Calm and Carry On".
Britain First has always insisted it is a peaceful movement that does not spread hatred. They have accused its opponents of curbing their free speech and right to protest.
A spokesman for the Met Police said: "Police were called at around 1.30pm to reports of a protest in Whitechapel Road. We had not been notified of the protest, however this is not required for a static protest.
"A Section 12 order was put in place to prevent the static protest becoming mobile in Brick Lane. The protest ended at 3.50pm. There were no arrests."