When we reached the Park, police calmly ushered demonstrators into the Park. There was a small "formal" delegation from March for England already line-up, but suddenly a large group (about 200) bolted in the direction of the town centre. Police soon realised that plans had to change quickly, as it soon dawned on us that there was only one thing one minds of this group of youths - the fastest route possible to Bury Park ready for a confrontation with the Asian community. A quick pause at the war memorial was followed by nearly 2 hours of cat-and-mouse with the police as this group of demonstrators zig-zagged their way along Luton side streets try to make their way northwards. On each turning police, now wearing riot shields and carrying batons, outflanked the protestors and hemmed them in. On many occasions ringleaders urged the crowd to stand their ground and mount a charge at police. A few hurled banners at police lines and there were arrests made when youths fought with police as they were trying to make their way towards Bury Park along the elevated dual carriageway.
Some of those arrested, I was told, already have recent convictions for violent offences.
Some had a different target in mind. "Leave them - they're coppers, not Pakis" said one as a further attempt to break police lines was made. An Asian shop down Chapel Street had its windows broken and cars were damaged as one individual walked up the boot, across the roof, down the windscreen and on with his journey.
Dedicated T-shirts, balaclavas and Sayful Islam masks (with devil's horns) were being sold by the same person in a grim attempt to sell "merchandise" related to the event.
Eventually police cornered the mob in Market Hill and the crowd dispersed into local bars. However, disturbances went on into the evening and further attempts were made to make ventures into Bury Park.
Great credit must go to a local young Imam who persuaded a group of angry young muslim men from making their way towards the town centre. A true act of leadership matched by the self-restraint and disciplined of the Bury Park youth. It appears that the Imam was from the same mosque that was burned in a firebomb incident from a few weeks ago.
Strangely, there were three distinct groups of demonstrators : 1) the break-away mob as described; 2) the "official" March for England delegation who laid their wreath and left 3) a further small group who walked down towards the town hall and stayed for the duration of the afternoon at the war memorial.
The instigator of the event, Paul "Lionheart" Ray, has announced intentions for another march in August, but surely Luton can be spared another re-run of this mayhem.
This blog will report on the aftermath of the demonstration in the days and weeks to come.