FAR right demonstrators confronted anti-fascist protesters in Edinburgh and London during events organised to mark the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.
In Edinburgh, around 150 Scottish Defence League supporters gathered outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood for a rally that passed off peacefully, while in London right-wing protesters from the British National Party clashed with anti-fascist groups.
The SDL supporters congregated at around 1.30pm to lay flowers in memory of Rigby before a series of speakers
addressed the crowd on anti-Islamic themes.
The group was met by jeers of “Nazi scum” and cries of “There are many, many more of us than you” from about 300 protesters who were kept apart from the SDL crowd by police barriers.
A minute’s silence in memory of Rigby held by the SDL was respected by the anti-fascist protesters, and the event ended without violence shortly before 3pm.
Meanwhile, in London at least 58 people at a Unite Against Fascism rally were arrested while protesting against a British National Party march near the Houses of Parliament.
About 150 BNP supporters attended the event, which had been planned for Woolwich but was moved to another part of London on police orders. The far right gathering was dwarfed by a crowd of several hundred which turned out to support the counter-demonstration.
The SDL group started to gather in Edinburgh’s Waverley Station from about 11am yesterday, waving Union Flags and SDL banners.
By 1pm, around 100 people – including former soldiers, some disabled by war injuries, and a few families with young children, as well as seasoned SDL supporters – set off for the parliament following loud renditions of Flower Of Scotland and Rule Britannia and chants of “Muslim bombers off our streets” and “There’s only one Lee Rigby”.
Among the crowd were first-time protesters who said they were not members of the SDL, but had come along to the rally in response to the killing of Rigby.
“I’m not a member of the SDL but I wanted to come down after what happened down in Woolwich to make
the numbers [of people at the rally] up,” said Chris Donaldson, 27, from Leith.
One of just a handful of women on the march, Alex, 27, from St Boswells, who declined to give her last name, said: “I’ve never been at anything like this before. I’m here for Lee Rigby, after all that happened. It’s such an upsetting thing, but it’s getting ridiculous what’s happening on our streets. Something needs to be done.”
As police led the group from the back of Waverley towards Holyrood, an angry exchange took place between a woman in a New Street flat and the SDL after water was thrown from an upper window onto the walkers beneath.
At Holyrood, T-shirts bearing the words Help for Heroes, similar to the charity T-shirt Rigby wore on the day of his death, were prominent among the SDL supporters, while a number of those present
wore tops with the names of military battalions and regiments including Black Watch (3 Scots) and The Rifles.
Across the barriers, anti-fascist supporters outnumbered the SDL group by about two to one and waved banners representing groups including the Communist
Party and Unison.
SDL supporters laid out a flag bearing Rigby’s name alongside banners equating Islam to terrorism, and placed bunches of flowers around it.
Daniel Sturrock, 21, from Penicuik, laid flowers with a card that read: “Lee Rigby, always in our hearts. Sadly taken away by cowards. RIP. SDL”
But on the other side of the barriers, anti-fascist campaigners expressed outrage that Rigby’s death had become the centre of anti-Islamic protests.
“The SDL are Nazis and out to divide the community. They want to stop immigration and that’s wrong. Lee Rigby’s family don’t want to have that attitude associated with him, so it’s wrong for them [the SDL] to do that too,” said Catherine Souter, 68, from Fife.
Rachel Kane, 20, from Edinburgh, said: “I don’t like to see people bring fascism and racism to the streets of
Edinburgh. There are so many cultures in Edinburgh and we should be welcoming everyone. But not fascists.”