It was a typical Saturday afternoon in a town centre full of families on their weekly shopping trips. But within minutes, Walsall resembled a warzone, with chairs being hurled at police, flags being burned and punches thrown by gangs of thugs.
The English Defence League wreaked havoc on September 29 last year but members faced their day of reckoning this week as 31 of them were sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
Police have been working for a year to bring those involved to justice, trawling through hours of CCTV in a bid to track down those responsible.
Today, officers welcomed the jail terms handed down to the yobs and said they hoped it would stop protests such as this one being organised and descending into violence.
Some 600 people came from across the country to attend the EDL demonstration.
Violence erupted in Leicester Street when an Asian man stood on a wall and made an ‘inflammatory’ gesture towards the EDL supporters, the court heard.
The EDL protesters then began to surge forward, trying to push through the line of police officers which had formed.
Missiles, including planks of wood, pieces of brick and fireworks, were thrown towards police lines.
A Pakistan flag was set on fire and placards were also displayed, including one which read ‘Our Walsall will never be part of Pakistan’, the court heard. Pages of the Koran were also said to have been burned.
Robin Allen, senior crown prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, described the scenes as an ‘orgy of violence’.
He said: “Fuelled by hate and alcohol, a section of the group, instigated by key figures within the demonstration, began to direct their anger towards the counter demonstration.
“As police then sought to contain the group, supporters of the EDL began throwing missiles.
“Police officers were then exposed to some of the worst violence that they have been subjected to in a public order situation.
“Concrete slabs, bricks and a table leg were among some of the various items which were used as weapons and thrown at the officers,” Mr Allen added.
“Those engaged in such reprehensible conduct paid little regard to what they were doing or who they were attacking, as during their orgy of violence, a number of their own EDL stewards, as well as police officers, were seriously injured.
“A year on from those violent scenes, those responsible for their actions that day have been arrested, brought to justice and now they have to face the consequences for their actions.”
Among those jailed was Craig Forward of Tipton. The court was told that he had thrown a 3ft-long piece of wood towards police lines, although in his defence it was said he did not have a racist attitude and was of previous good character.
Mark Baker, aged 44, of Pleck, Walsall, was described by police as being ‘extremely worked up and angry, and was said to have at one point surged forward to try to break through the police line, although in his defence the court heard he did not use physical violence and did not chant ‘hate language’.
Stephen Bennett, 23, of Palfrey, Walsall, was described by police as ‘standing on a bench throwing at least four objects into the police line’.
Defending Bennett, Mr Christopher O’Gorman said his client had no previous convictions and since the offence has returned to his former law-abiding ways. Peter Kirkham, 30, of Dudley, had ‘lunged’ at an officer and grabbed his truncheon, the court was told.
The men had all previously pleaded guilty to violent disorder.
Eighteen-year-old Samuel Phipps, of Lingfield Drive, Great Wyrley, avoided an immediate 16 months detention as it was suspended for two years after admitting the same charge. He was told to do 200 hours unpaid work.
Mr Patrick Currie, defending, said the former army cadet had dreams of serving as a soldier before suffering a severe knee injury. He has since gone onto an engineering course at the University of Wolverhampton.
Dean Smith, of Tipton, was said to be at the ‘forefront’ of the action, although he didn’t throw or chant anything. He was convicted of violent disorder after a trial. Gary Lycett, 55, of Leamore, Walsall, was seen fighting with police officers holding a line to control the crowds.
Miss Wendy Miller, defending Lycett, said the lorry driver had since had time to reflect.
Douglas Ralston, 53, of Tipton, was filmed with others smashing up a wooden table. Lee Rogers, 26, also from Tipton, threw missiles and chanted.
Jack Lambert, 25, of West Bromwich, was filmed throwing what appeared to be coins at the officers. Duncan Smith, 43, of Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, hurled bricks during the violence, while Stephen Currien, 30, of Bilston, stormed towards police with wood from a smashed-up pub garden table. Alan Turnbull, 32, of Rigby Drive, Chadsmoor, gathered bricks and was seen to have thrown an object.
Lee Coxshall, 34, of West Bromwich, was also among the protesters and was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Nicholas Cooper from Bloxwich was given 27 months in jail after pleading guilty to a charge of violent disorder. He was ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work. All admitted violent disorder.
A 17-year-old from Brownhills was given eight months detention and a training order, having been found guilty of violent disorder, while a 16-year-old from Walsall was given a 12-month referral order for the same charge.
Ten others have already previously appeared before the courts earlier this year in connection wit h the disorder.Subscribe to our Newsletter