The streets of Nottingham were today overrun with a pro-veterans rally and clashing Antifa activists parading through the city centre.
Giant crowds ignored social-distancing guidelines as they filled Old Market Square with banners claiming ‘Antifa protect pedos’ and ‘God bless Donald Trump’.
And one man was found holding a flag promoting the Werwolf Resistance – an alleged Neo Nazi group in the UK which named themselves after a Nazi campaign during WWI.
Opposing protesters held signs saying: ‘Anti-fascists support Black Lives Matter.’
A large number of police officers were called in to manage the protest and members of the public were advised to stay away from the city centre.
Two main streets, Queen Street and King Street, were closed for the duration of the protests.
A Nottinghamshire Police spokesman said that there were some minor disruptions which were dealt with quickly but no arrests were made and the protest went smoothly.
Police said it was unclear exactly what the pro-veterans group were protesting for and their messages were quite diverse.
According to Nottinghamshire Live, one of the groups posted a video saying their aim was to highlight ‘veterans and children and to bring awareness of the plight of veterans’.
And Liam Conway, from Nottingham and Mansfield Trades Union Council, which was part of a separate protest in Market Square, said: ‘We stand for an inclusive society’.
Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen said that there were concerns that people with far-right views may attend the protests today after suggestions were made on social media that a far-right group called British Street Commandos had organised the event.
In a statement he wrote: ‘Racism is not welcome in Nottingham and we would encourage anyone planning to travel here with such views not to come to our city.’
He went on to encourage attendees to respect social distancing and wear a face mask.
In a lengthy statement to the public he wrote: ‘If you’re visiting Nottingham city centre today to support local businesses, we want to make you aware of protests that are due to take place so you can plan ahead.
‘The council is working with Nottingham Police to manage any disruption the protests may cause.
‘Queen Street and King Street will be closed to traffic from 9am which will mean buses with stops there will pick up and drop off on Parliament Street instead.
‘The closure will be lifted as soon as possible after the protests. There are concerns that people with far right views may decide to become involved in the protests. Racism is not welcome in Nottingham and we would encourage anyone planning to travel here with such views not to come to our city.
‘We urge all protesters and counter protesters to act responsibly during the current pandemic by making sure they socially distance and wear a face covering.’
Local businesses also experienced a loss in trade.
Steve Hadgi, assistant general manager for the Alchemist had a swarm of protesters right outside his business blocking the doors for anyone to come in.
He told Nottinghamshire Live: ‘It is not something we particularly agree with as a company. It has affected trade a bit. We were made aware of it on Wednesday. It was such a volatile development.
‘When there is a demonstration they always come to speakers corner. While this was going on we only let [those who had] pre-booked into the venue and kept our staff and guests safe.’