Absent leaders? Kevin Carroll (l) and Tommy Robinson
Absent leaders? Kevin Carroll (l) and Tommy Robinson

A planned march by the English Defence League (EDL) in east London has been thrown into doubt amid reports that the far-right group's leaders will be absent.

The English Defence League (EDL) is set to march in Walthamstow, east London, on Saturday. Leader Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had vowed to play inflammatory film Innocence of Muslims in the ethnically diverse suburb.

But Robinson's scheme was ended after his arrest and remand in prison on suspicion of entering the United States illegally in September. Now IBTimes UK has learned that EDL co-founder Kevin Carroll also may not attend.

The British Freedom Party, of which Carroll is a member, said he may be absent. A party spokesman said Carroll was arrested last weekend by police. Scotland Yard officers held 53 people on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, in Whitechapel, east London.

Carroll is standing as a candidate in the upcoming police and crime commissioner elections. Supporters raised £5,000 for his candidacy in Bedford.

"He said he was not [going]. His plan was to focus on the election campaign," a spokesman said.

He added that Carroll was not among the group of 53 people held by police on their way to London, after being apprehended on the M25 and M3 motorways.

With the two leaders out of the picture, the question remains of who will head the planned anti-Muslim protest.

Sophie Bolt, of anti-EDL campaign group We Are Waltham Forest, told IBTimes UK: "If nobody comes from the EDL it will be a celebration.

"We will still go ahead with our demonstration. We are having a rally and a demo whatever happens, because this is about standing up and showing we will not be intimidated by fascists, who want to denigrate the values of our multicultural community."

EDL supporters marched in Walthamstow in September. Residents lined up along the route and booed a group of around 300 demonstrators. The event was not regarded as a success for the EDL and triggered calls from some corners of the far-right organisation for Robinson to stand down.

"I think they are coming back because they were so humiliated they came last time," said Bolt. "This next march is an act of bravado and a face-saving exercise. But we cannot this for granted."

Police rejected calls from Waltham Forest Council to ban the march. Town hall officials received a petition of 3,000 signatures calling for that decision to be overturned, which was handed to Home Secretary Theresa May.