Thousands of protestors faced off in central London on Saturday as a far-right organisation marched through the capital.
The Democratic Football Lads Alliance, who formed after the Manchester Arena bombing, held a rally starting near Mayfair at 1pm but were met at Trafalgar Square by three other groups marching in protest against them.
The group walked behind a banner reading ‘Justice for Women and Children’, reflecting their official statement of being against grooming and rape, and what they see as a cover-up of this.
One DFLA member called Carol said: “We’re not racist, we’re not Islamophobic, we speak for common sense.
“We are under Sharia Law. Our government has got away for too long with stepping on the rights of British people. People have had enough.”
Opposing the DFLA were various anti-fascist groups including Stand Up to Racism, Unite against Fascism, the Socialist Workers Party, and Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism.
COUNTER ARGUMENT: Protestors against the DFLA also marched through London
Trafalgar Square became the eye of the storm as the DFLA protest and the three anti-racism protests came towards it from different directions.
Police swarmed the area in cars, on motorbikes and on horseback, and foot traffic in the centre came to a standstill.
Some members of the DFLA march chanted ‘scum’ as the counter-protestors passed them in the square.
Signs at the march also showed support for Veterans Against Suicide and political party For Britain, as well as bearing slogans including ‘No to Sharia Law’ and ‘For Sale: Mohammed’s Koran’.
The crowd waved Union Jacks, England flags, American flags and football team flags.
There was visible support for far-right figure Tommy Robinson, including signs saying ‘I am Soldier X’, a reference to soldiers who sparked an investigation, with one allegedly being discharged, after posing for a photo with Robinson.
MAKING THEIR POINT: The Democratic Football Lads Alliance
A Sunderland supporter of the DFLA called Joe said people were there to protest the rape of women and children, and to stand up to extremism.
He also mentioned “Soldier X,” saying: “A soldier has lost his career.
“Why persecute people who have their photo taken?”
Later in the afternoon the crowd gathered in front of a stage near Trafalgar Square.
At the sight of journalists filming in the audience, there were boos and calls for people to block the cameras.
The main group of counter-protestors opposing the DFLA walked from near Portland Place through Trafalgar Square ending near Waterloo, behind a banner reading “No rape. No racism.”
Signs proclaimed support for Antifa, Brazilian Women against Fascism, and Feminists Against Fascism. Black and red Anarchist flags were prevalent.
The crowd chanted ‘No silence to violence’, ‘refugees are welcome here’, and ‘white supremacy is the enemy’.
At one point some crowd members broke out into a rendition of ‘Bella Ciao’, a traditional Italian tune that became a protest song.
One marcher, Kev Turner, 31, said: “There’s a bit of a trend towards the far right.
“I believe we need to oppose them.”
Chief executive of Show Racism the Red Card Ged Grebby, 56, said: “This is a negative development back to the bad old days of football.
“If you have organisations spreading hatred you need people standing up against it.”
Joint convener for Stand Up to Racism Weyman Bennett, 53, said: “We believe this shouldn’t become a normal part of politics in Europe or in the world.
“We’ve got to be really clear: it’s nothing to do with football, it’s nothing to do with lads and it’s nothing to do with democracy.
“It’s about a populist group trying to intimidate and threaten those around them.”
The DFLA’s mission statement said: “The DFLA objective is plain and simple – to combat terrorism and extremism.
“We are not seeking to alienate any demographic but are seeking to bring to justice anyone who believes they are above the laws of this land and the values and traditions of our country.
“The DFLA believes in Freedom of Expression and intends to defend our right to free speech.”