According to the police, the ‘very volatile’ group of young men, numbering up to 300, had assembled outside the East London Mosque in response to rumours of a rally by the controversial right-wing group the English Defence League.
Despite no EDL presence, the protesters became agitated and ‘surged up and down’ the Whitechapel Road. According to the police statement, there were ‘concerted efforts by the crowd to attack people at random.’
Police officers themselves were also attacked by the crowd ‘at points throughout the afternoon.’
Stewards and representatives of the mosque attempted to control the situation, police said, making ‘continued excellent attempts’ to pacify the crowd and even risking their own safety, but were unsuccessful.
In response to the ‘risk of serious disorder,’ and in order to prevent injuries to officers and bystanders, police isolated the area with a series of ‘filter cordons,’ which remained in place for around two hours.
An earlier anti-EDL rally in the area, held by Unite Against Fascism, was conducted peacefully. Police estimate participant numbers at around 1,500. Demonstrators suggest that the number was closer to 5000.