LONDON – Far-right groups and antifascists held rival demonstrations Saturday to mark the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby more than a week ago. The events saw modest turnout, little violence and dozens of arrests.
Police kept about 150 British National Party supporters carrying anti-Islam placards apart from a larger group of anti-racist demonstrators outside Parliament in London after the two sides traded insults and occasional blows.
Police said 58 antifascist protesters were arrested after refusing to move to let the other group pass.
Smaller right-wing protests were held in other British cities, but the turnout fell far short of the show of strength organizers had hoped for. Both right- and left-wing protests were far outnumbered by a separate demonstration near Parliament, led by Queen guitarist Brian May, against the culling of badgers.
Police had earlier rejected a plan by the BNP -- which claims to be anti-extremist but which opponents say is racist and anti-Islam -- to march from the site of Rigby's killing in southeast London to a nearby Islamic center.
Police, politicians and activists have reported a rise in anti-Muslim incidents since Rigby was hacked to death on May 22 by two men espousing militant Islam.
On Friday, Rigby's family released a plea for peace, saying "Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others."
The two prime suspects in the killing were recently discharged from hospitals after being shot by police on the day of the killing. Michael Adebowale, 22, has been charged with murder, while 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo is being questioned.
Several others have been arrested and questioned in connection with the attack. Most have been released on bail.