Sunday, 4 September 2011

Serious public disorder in Mile End and Stepney Green

Yesterday evening - after the demonstrations in Whitechapel and Aldgate - there was a considerable amount of public disorder between Stepney Green Station and Mile End Station. This was due to a coach of EDL members stopping on the Mile End Road at Stepney Green - very close to the Mile End Mosque.  The coach was subsequently attacked by those in the area - presumably because they felt threatened.  

Serious public disorder involving riot police continued  into Mile End Park with "hundreds" of young men being chased. Some of them were subsequently detained by Police.  Mile End Road was also closed for a period of time and all travel was seriously disrupted.

The scene at Mile End on 3rd September - the road is closed
It perhaps goes without saying that such serious disorder and the noises associated with it (lots of loud police sirens etc) so soon after the riots was extremely frightening for some local residents living in Mile End and Stepney even if others were less bothered by it.

If this public disorder was preventable then somebody needs to do a very good job of explaining to people living locally why this did not happen - and apologise.  

Both Police, community leaders and stewards did a very good job earlier in the day of containing the worst excesses of the hotheads.  So what went wrong? The whole point of swamping the borough with Police was to contain public disorder - and, at the end of the day, that now appears to have been unsuccessful.

Were Police and community leaders caught off guard by the actions of the EDL and what happened in the early evening?  Did the tensions of the day boil over - and might that have been better anticipated?  Could the chances of the EDL getting close to a mosque and offending the sensitivities of those who attend it have been better prevented?

Facts are a little garbled still.  Below is a narrative of what we think happened based on personal observations and studying different accounts.  The following narrative includes tweets and observations by
You can see more more photos and videos on the post on our MERA website Mile End Park - Saturday 3rd September 

[Update - this is the BBC report on the incident English Defence League coach attacked in east London (04.09.11) which confirms a lot of what is indicated below]

What happened?
  • an EDL coach (coaches?) was allowed to travel along the Mile End Road (or the Police failed to prevent it).  According to the Police a coach carrying EDL members 'broke down' outside Stepney Green Tube Station [UPDATE:  the breakdown occurred two doors from the Mile End Mosque, right opposite the Ocean Estate 
CO11MetPolice Metropolitan Police
A coach broke down outside #Stepney Green Tube Stn. Police have now moved the passengers out of Tower Hamlets #mileend #towerhamlets
  • we understand a second EDL coach (or the same coach?) stopped outside or near to the Mile End Mosque a little further up the road at 241-243 Mile End Road and EDL members got out  (or the Mosque was considered to be a target and under threat from EDL members by the Bengali youth living locally - due to its proximity to the coach and EDL members?) [UPDATE - same coach - see above]
  • all those present on the coach (coaches?) were subsequently arrested.  According to the BBC 44 people from the coach were held on suspicion of violent disorder.
  • the presence of the EDL coach actually IN TOWER HAMLETS and very near to a mosque incensed local Bengali youths and very many assembled in the area (this is within the context of a day where "they shall not pass" had become the chant of the day to those opposed to the EDL ie the EDL had only got as far as the boundary of Tower Hamlets) 
  • we understand that 
    • the coach was initially protected by a line of police
    • however a tense situation boiled over and became nasty.  The coach was attacked and missiles were hurled by those present in the area and three windows were broken.  It eventually left the area, escorted by Police Riot Vans
    • a line of riot police formed a barricade outside the Co-Op at Stepney Green 
    • more riot police lined up across the road between Queen Mary College and the Ocean Estate (a large housing estate) - SEE VIDEO of the situation it created - video by BBC reporter @paraicobrien
paraicobrien Paraic O'Brien #edl bus being attacked in Tower Hamlets. Large no.s police. Turning nasty 
paraicobrien Paraic O'Brien Getting v tense here. Asian youths in scuffles with lots of police 
paraicobrien Paraic O'Brien #edl coach stalls on mile end rd. Some passengers get out. A fight with youth. 100s then arrive. smash windows. 100s police arrive. calmish 
paraicobrien About 25 riot vans and hundreds of police trying to get #edl bus along mile end road #edl
paraicobrien Paraic O'Brien Shafiur Rahman, Islamic Forum Europe: allowing #edl bus thru Tower Hamlets was security boo boo that could have resulted in major incident 

Police vans in Burdett Road - next to Mile End Park
    • Mark Townsend, the Home Affairs Editor for the Observer reports that hundreds of Bengali youths subsequently ran along Burdett Road and through Mile End Park and were chased by Riot Police with shields and batons.  Local residents also observed this and tweeted the same message.  Youths were forcibly detained.  It's unclear whether any were arrested.  Four youths were seen on the ground and under heavy restraint by the police.  
    • The following are tweets by a local resident who photographed what he could see.  Hamlets Way goes through the middle of the MERA area and is a densely populated residential area full of families - the Eric and Treby Estate.
Five vans just went down Hamlets Way off Burdett Road. 20 police still holding group in #mileend park. Tense. (photograph)c_Dangerfield 
 Too dark to photograph but suddenly about 100 policemen in #mileend park, searching detainees with torches. Lots of standing around too
  • Travel was also severely disrupted
    • Mile End Road was closed at the junction with Burdett Road
    • buses were diverted.  Passengers also had to leave buses and were left to walk along the pavement without advice as to what was happening
    • Mile End Tube Station was closed
    • west-bound traffic came to a virtual standstill on the Mile End Road
    • a very large number of police vans repeatedly screamed down Mile End Road - on the wrong side of the road - causing considerable alarm amongst both the local community and the car drivers so soon after the riots elsewhere in London.
    • very many drivers turned their cars round quickly as they began to realise they were driving into an area of serious public disorder
    • a helicopter maintained a presence over the area for about two hours
CO11MetPolice Metropolitan Police All passengers from the coach have been arrested. #uafeastend #uaf #towerhamlets #edl
CO11MetPolice Metropolitan Police There are no EDL members outside Mile End mosque. Those from the coach have been removed from the borough of Tower Hamlets #uafeastend #uaf
Questions which need an answer

We would like a full explanation from ALL the relevant authorities and leaders of ALL the reasons for the public disorder which occurred in our area and which upset our local community in Mile End.

Our questions all stem from:
  • one basic fact:  Mile End is a residential area with a lot of families and children
  • two basic questions:  
    • Why did significant public disorder requiring riot police in full gear occur in this area? 
    • How might it have been prevented?
Below are a number of specific questions which we would like to see answered
  1. Why were coaches carrying EDL members ever allowed to move along the Whitechapel / Mile End Road - a road on which there are two mosques - and which the EDL had been prevented from entering by the Police earlier in the day?
  2. Why were the police not escorting the EDL coach along a road which was NOT used as a route for today's demonstrations and which did NOT have any mosques?
  3. Why was public disorder allowed to occur at all?  Especially when this was so predictable if EDL members ever came into close/provocative contact with members of the local Islamic community?  (ie the potential for public disorder was the reason why the ban on marches was granted by the Home Secretary)
  4. Why were Mile End Road and Mile End Underground Station closed?
  5. Why was no public safety advice offered to pedestrians, those asked to leave buses and those in cars moving towards the area of the public disorder?
  6. Why were vans of riot police parked in Burdett Road immediately adjacent to the area we represent - which is an area of largely family housing?
  7. Specifically in relation to Mile End Park - and within the context of how matters were handled earlier in the day
    • why were hundreds of Bengali youths running in the park?
    • why were police with riot shields and truncheons/batons chasing and detaining them?
  8. What mistakes were made that led to this serious public disorder? Would this have happened if a police escort had escorted the EDL visitors out of the borough and ensured that the EDL coach had taken a different route?
  9. Could what happened been prevented from happening?
  10. What actions will now be taken to prevent it from ever happening again?

    Can we also suggest that, the next time EDL or any similar group (or opposition group) wants to demonstrate in Tower Hamlets, they are required to assemble for their static demonstration and exercise of free speech outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall at Clove Crescent.  This is an appropriate location (well away from local residential communities and mosques), which is close to good transport links and has facilities for parking coaches.  Let the politicians take the strain next time!

    No groups wishing to demonstrate in this type of provocative context should ever be allowed to move through residential areas in Tower Hamlets again.   

    The right to free speech does not include the right to terrorise local communities.

    (Note: Thanks to c_dangerfield for the use of his photographs)

    1 comment:

    1. Shame that local councillor Rachel Saunders chooses to gloss over the serious trouble by Asian youths in this article for the labour faithful -


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