Members of the English Defence League took to the streets in response to the brutal attack and beheading of a British soldier by two Islamic terrorists on Wednesday. The EDL, a far-right movement opposing the spread of Islam in Britain, threw bottles at police in Woolwich, London, when they tried to intervene.
About 100 men, wearing shirts labeled “EDL” and carrying British flags, chanted anti-Muslim slogans.
"They're chopping our soldiers' heads off,” said EDL leader Tommy Robinson. “This is Islam. That's what we've seen today. They've cut off one of our army's heads off on the streets of London.”
The group gathered near the Woolwich Arsenal station as hundreds of police officers, including riot police, looked on.
"Our next generation are being taught through schools that Islam is a religion of peace. It's not,” Robinson said. “It never has been. What you saw today is Islam. Everyone's had enough. There has to be a reaction, for the government to listen, for the police to listen, to understand how angry this British public are."
The attack was condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
"This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly," the MCB said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the Armed Forces."
Two separate attacks on mosques led to arrests overnight. A 43-year-old man entered a Braintree, Essex, mosque holding a knife and was later arrested on suspicion of arson.
Another man in Kent was arrested for suspected racially aggravated criminal damage to a mosque on Canterbury Street, Gillingham.
"We absolutely condemn what happened in Woolwich, but it had nothing to do with us,” said Sikand Saleemy, secretary of the Essex mosque. “It was an appalling act of terror – but it wasn't Islamic in any way. I wish it wasn't described like that, because sadly people will now start to blame Muslims."