Call for inquiry into violence at Birmingham city centre rallies
Police this morning face calls for a major inquiry after mob violence returned to Birmingham’s city centre for the second time in a month.
West Midlands Police revealed yesterday that 90 people were arrested as members of the anti-Islamic extremist group the English Defence League and socialist protesters rampaged through the streets, sending terrified shoppers fleeing for safety or hiding in shops and cafes.
The number of people detained, all men aged between 16 and 39, dwarfed the 33 arrests made when similar rival rallies erupted into violence on August 8.
But Coun Alan Rudge, Birmingham’s Cabinet member for equalities, summed events up by saying: “There were obviously difficulties but they never got out of hand.”
A West Midlands Police spokesman said Saturday’s offences included criminal damage, violent disorder and possession of an offensive weapon. A number of fixed penalty notices were issued while the remainder were bailed pending further enquiries.
At the height of Saturday’s disturbances up to a hundred alcohol-fuelled EDL protesters were held inside Bennett’s pub in Bennett’s Hill while it was besieged by a mob, while more than 20 men were arrested on a vandalised bus in Digbeth High Street after being shepherded on to it by police.
As inquiries began into the aftermath of the trouble, Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood criticised the police operation and called for an inquiry into their handling of it.
He said: “West Midlands Police have had four weeks to plan for this but they have failed innocent members of the public in Birmingham city centre.”
He called for answers as to why people were allowed to get drunk before the protest, why they were not escorted by police away from the city centre, and why they were held in Bennett’s to drink even more.
“It has been a complete mess in terms of policing and the force needs to look at things at the highest level,” he said.
West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council had obtained an order prior to Saturday restricting the demonstrations to two locations, with the EDL at Lancaster Circus and any rival rally at Old Square, in particular keeping them away from the Bullring shopping centre. But protesters ignored an agreed schedule by starting to drink in Broad Street three hours ahead of the planned demonstration.
They then made their way into the New Street area to confront rivals.
Coun Rudge insisted yesterday: “We cannot stop people intent on causing trouble.
“But, in the circumstances, I think it was well handled.”
Det Chief Insp Sue Southern said: “We tried to facilitate a peaceful demonstration by negotiating with the protesters and escorting them to designated areas.
“They were not willing to do this so we had to respond with a fluid and robust operation.”
Meanwhile, police have arrested a number of men after issuing CCTV images of wanted suspects after the August 8 violence.