Leaders of a controversial group which led protests against Islamic extremism in Birmingham have vowed never to hold demonstrations in the city again, because it is too violent.
The English Defence League (EDL) said it was angry at scenes of police officers being attacked during its rally in Birmingham earlier this month, blaming the violence on young Muslim extremists.
The EDL spoke out as police chiefs from across the UK met in Birmingham to discuss ways of preventing extremist protests from wreaking havoc across the country.
Ninety people were arrested in Birmingham following a march on September 5 when supporters of the EDL, claiming to be protesting against Islamic extremism, clashed with Muslim youths.
Tom Robinson, the EDL’s spokesman and one of the founders, has hit back at claims that it was a “racist” or anti-Muslim organisation.
The EDL is to release a video next week produced by black members to stress that it was opposed to Islamic extremism and not to any race or religion.
In an article in a national magazine, Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob has accused the EDL of being a racist organisation attempting to “demonise and terrorise” Muslims.
Ms Yaqoob claimed it was “predictable” that the English Defence League and young Asians would be involved in violence in the city earlier this month.
In an article for the New Statesman, she said: “If the violence of the EDL was predictable, it was also predictable that some Asian youths would ignore calls for restraint from myself and others.
“Many young people are simply not prepared to turn the other cheek when faced with this brand of violent racism.
“But, ultimately, the newly emboldened racist movement will not be pushed back simply by confrontations week after week in our city’s busiest shopping streets. The ground has to be cut from under the racists’ feet by a political campaign that challenges their racist lies and reasserts the strengths of our multicultural society.”
Mr Robinson said: “We condemn white extremists as much as we condemn Islamic extremists.
“We oppose the BNP – we oppose their racist stance and we oppose their religious stance in attacking all Muslims.”
He claimed Ms Yaqoob was responsible for the violence, saying: “She wound up the local Muslim community by telling them that we were the BNP and that the BNP were coming to Birmingham, which isn’t true.”
Mr Robinson said the EDL opposed extremists such as Anjem Choudhary, who has organised “Islamic roadshows”, including one in Birmingham in June, calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Britain replacing democracy, or “man-made law”, with Sharia law.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has warned police forces not to underestimate the fear that resurgent right-wing groups could cause in communities.
West Midlands Police said it routinely monitored race and religious hate crimes for any indication that right-wing groups could be active.
The city council has previously expressed concern about far-right groups looking to recruit disaffected white youths. Education chiefs are now looking at ways of boosting their achievements at school to keep them out of their grip.
The EDL is now planning a demonstration in Manchester on October 10.
Senior officers from Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, the Metropolitan Police and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit attended yesterday’s meeting.
West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said they wanted to examine the make-up of the main protagonists of the Birmingham march.
“It is important that all forces affected by this new kind of protest have an opportunity to discuss the operational implications,” she said.
“We’ll be sharing learning from previous operations and developing best practice, while also exploring whether current strategies used in other fields could be used in policing protest.”
As a result of the arrests made during the protests on September 5 and earlier violence in August, police had been able to use stringent bail conditions to ban people from visiting the city centre.
Police and council chiefs have threatened to use injunctions and Anti-social Behaviour Orders to deal with any further outbreaks of trouble.