Fifty-eight arrested during Westminster protests

A police officer with blood on his face looks on as Unite Against Fascism (UAF) supporters protest Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police were called to break up disorder between the British National Party and Unite Against Fascism

Fifty-eight people have been arrested at a counter-protest sparked by a British National Party demonstration in Westminster.

The BNP demonstration was held in Whitehall Gardens following the death of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last month.

Police had asked that it be moved from Woolwich.

The counter-protest in Westminster was staged by members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF).

BNP leader Nick Griffin arrived at the demonstration during the afternoon and told the BBC it was intended to be peaceful.

Image copyright PA
Image caption BNP leader Nick Griffin told the BBC the demonstration was intended to be peaceful

He said his party agreed with Drummer Rigby's family that his death should not be used as an excuse for attacks on others.

But he said his followers were there to "draw attention to a political problem" adding "...because if people stick their heads in the sand... then more lads will die like Lee Rigby."

The BNP group had planned to march to the Cenotaph in nearby Whitehall, but UAF supporters blocked their path for most of the day.

The Metropolitan Police said the 58 people arrested for breaches of the Public Order Act were from the UAF protest.

In Leeds and Sheffield, several hundred people from the English Defence League (EDL) and UAF were involved in rival demonstrations.

Three people were arrested in Leeds and two arrests were made in Sheffield.

The protests came despite calls for peace from police and the family of Drummer Rigby, who was killed near Woolwich Barracks on 22 May.

The BNP had planned to march from the barracks, but were banned from doing so by Scotland Yard, amid community fears that their presence could prompt disorder.

'Harrowing experience'

Two men, Michael Adebolajo, 28, of Romford, east London, and Michael Adebowale, 22, of of Greenwich, south-east London, have been charged with Drummer Rigby's murder.

Meanwhile, Drummer Rigby's family have called for calm amid reports of a rise in anti-Muslim incidents following his death.

In a statement, the family said: "Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others.

"We would not wish any other families to go through this harrowing experience and appeal to everyone to keep calm and show their respect in a peaceful manner."

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