One arrest as protesters clash during Britain First Wolverhampton demo
One man was arrested as protesters clashed in Wolverhampton city centre during a Britain First demonstration today.
Tempers flared and eggs were thrown from the roof of a shopping centre as dozens of police officers formed lines to keep the far-right group away from up to 100 anti-fascist demonstrators.
Chants of 'Britain First - we're fighting back' were met with a chorus of 'Whose streets? Our streets' by the placard-carrying protesters, as shoppers watched in bewilderment.
Part of Dudley Street was cordoned off to the public during the height of the trouble.
Around 20 far-right Britain First supporters from around the Midlands and the South were in the city to hold a recruitment drive but met with angry opposition from members of the public and activists from the Wolverhampton and Bilston Trades Union Council, United Against Fascism and Socialist Worker groups.
There were heated exchanges and shouts of 'Scum' and 'You're not welcome' aimed at the group who took video footage of the protesters and photographs of each other while fenced in by police.
Although their initial presence was small, eventually more than 50 police and community support officers, some with dogs, flooded the city centre to prevent an outbreak of violence.
Specialist officers who had been working at St. Andrews for the Birmingham City v Bristol City football matches, were also brought in.
As tensions peaked, officers moved the political gathering from its initial pitch in Dudley Street, near the corner with Queen Street, a further 100 yards away to the Bilston Road junction, by the Wulfrun Centre entrance.
Nearby shops and businesses were 'severely affected throughout the demonstration', according to West Midlands Police, who only found out about the ‘day of action’ after a ‘confidential’ Britain First memo was shared on social media.
Extra officers were deployed to the city centre and a force spokesman said the police presence 'ensured the groups remained apart and disruption to shoppers was kept to a minimum'.
Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 notices were served on both sets of protesters, instructing them where to protest in order to keep the groups separate, and one man was arrested.
Anthony Walker, 50, from Gerald Road, Salford, was detained and charged with using threatening or abuse words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke unlawful violence and bailed to appear at Walsall Magistrates Court on August 25.
There was an allegation that a corrosive substance was hurled at Britain First demonstrators, but no injuries were reported and the suspect managed to escape police.
Chief Superintendent Dave Sturman, from West Midlands Police’s Operations Department, said: “The right to demonstrate is a fundamental human right and we have a duty to facilitate peaceful protests, however we had not been given prior notice of today’s event leaving little time to prepare.
“However our policing response was swift and robust ensuring that confrontation was kept to a minimum and the city of Wolverhampton returned to normality as soon as possible.”