Surprise EDL demo causes chaos in Wolverhampton

A surprise protest by the English Defence League in Wolverhampton brought chaotic scenes to the city centre.

A surprise protest by the English Defence League in Wolverhampton brought chaotic scenes to the city centre.

Alarmed passers-by sought refuge in shops as around 100 protesters from the right wing group staged the demonstration, which was arranged over the internet.

Today police were facing questions over the handling of the protest, which officers said was "unplanned".

Reports appeared on the internet on Friday night, some 16 hours before the event. Police used social networking site Twitter on Saturday morning to announce "rumours" of a demonstration in the city.

Officers say they are unable to ban protests, but can ban marches.

The group began chanting and swearing at passers-by, while an anti-EDL demonstration was launched by around 40 people in Queen Square. Police kept that group, organised by Wolverhampton Trade Union Council, away from the EDL and no arrests were made.

The drama unfolded at around 11.40am when members of the EDL, which  is against Islamic extremism, gathered outside the Oceana nightclub in Bilston Street.

They chanted and marched towards Dudley Street but were stopped by a dozen police officers. They walked back along Garrick Street and through the Wulfrun Centre. Police took up positions at the entrance to the Wulfrun Centre at Dudley Street and attempted to stop the EDL from leaving.

But the protesters, many wearing masks and scarves, forced their way through.

Officers contained the mob near Marks &Spencer and eventually allowed the group to move, within a cordon, to Queen Square.

The EDL was contained by police near the Prince Albert statue and were largely kept there by police until around 2pm. Shopper Eve Bishop, aged 38, of Merridale Street West, Wolverhampton, said: "It was frightening to see  gangs of men shouting at each other."

Police were unavailable for comment today.