EDL members arrested near Cenotaph in Whitehall

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Media captionEDL members arrested held near Cenotaph in London

Nearly 180 supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) have been arrested outside a pub near the Cenotaph in central London, Scotland Yard has said.

They were at the Red Lion in Parliament Street, close to Downing Street and government buildings in Whitehall.

The EDL had said it was paying respect on Armistice Day to military personnel killed or injured while on duty.

Police said the arrests were made to "prevent a breach of the peace". They released 176 people without charge.

A further three, who were suspected of affray, have been freed on bail.

The EDL said it originally planned to stop members of the Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) group from burning poppies near the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington.

MAC staged an anti-Armistice Day protest last year and said it was planning to do the same again this year.

'Patriots removed'

But on Thursday, Home Secretary Theresa May announced MAC had been banned, and the organisation said it had disbanded.

The EDL then urged its members to gather peacefully in Westminster on Friday "to remember the sacrifice of the fallen".

Image caption The group had gathered outside the Red Lion pub in Parliament Street on Friday lunchtime

The Met said: "Arrests were made in 2010 and two people were later convicted.

"Intelligence and info suggested a similar incident may occur this year," it added on its Twitter feed.

On its Facebook page, the EDL said police were "taking patriots out of pubs in tens and nicking them for breach of peace".

EDL member Andrew Wilson told BBC London that "some young idiots have had a fight in a pub".

"Police have charged in there and just gone over the top and forced us all out.

"Then because there are members of the English Defence League in there, they've obviously attributed it to us."

He said EDL supporters "came here for a peaceful memorial service and we got attacked in the pub".

"We're called the English Defence League, not the English Let's-Go-Smash-It-Up League," he added.

The Met said there had been "no reported disorder between opposing groups" so far on Friday.

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