On September 3rd, the English Defence League (EDL) went ahead with their plan to march through Tower Hamlets, despite a ban on marches issues by Home Secretary Theresa May prior to the event (as reported). Roughly 3,000 police officers tried to maintain control and created “no-man zones” between the estimated 1,000 EDL supporters and the 1,500 anti-EDL protesters. The police also made an effort to keep the EDL outside of Tower Hamlets. As the BBC reports, 16 EDL members were arrested during the demonstrations.
The fact that the EDL chose to march through Tower Hamlets seems to be a reaction to the boroughs multicultural character; Tower Hamlets, home to over 70,000 Muslims (the largest proportion of Muslims to live in any English local authority), has recently seen increasing signs of radical Islamism, with signs declaring the borough a “Sharia controlled zone” and public libraries providing texts by renowned Islamic extremists such as Abu Hamza al-Masri (as reported). It is this context that offered potential to be attacked by the EDL, which aimed to challenge the “Islamification” of the borough. As the Internet portal Qantara notes, the support of the Muslim community expressed by the anti-EDL protesters, which included representatives of the Lesbian and Gay Coalition against Racism and the Jewish Orthodox Community, illustrated that, despite official announcements of the failure of multiculturalism, multiculturalism in Tower Hamlets is, in fact, well and alive.