The North Yorkshire police have arrested several men after a far-right political group gathered and provoked violence outside York Minster.
Approximately thirty men in black clothing, hats and darkened glasses, bearing political banners, assembled outside York Minster at around 3:30pm today, engaging violently with members of the public.
According to an eyewitness present during the incident, the men assembled and waited outside York Minster, scattered in small groups around the square, at first indistinguishable from ordinary members of the public nearby. They then gathered as a single unit outside the Belfry, putting on black masks and bandanas:
They came together outside the Belfry and started shouting. They had a banner with the face of Hitler and the slogan, ‘Ban the refugees’. At least one man made a Nazi salute.
Locals and tourists interacted with the protesters, resulting in violence. The witness described the protesters’ attempts to grab the throats of tourists while continuing to make Neo-Nazi gestures. Numerous ambulances came by the Minster 4:15pm and 5:45pm, but it is unknown if these were in response to injuries outside the Minster.
At around 4pm the police arrived at the scene and surrounded the protesters. Eyewitnesses recalled between ten and fifteen police vehicles arriving in streets near the Minster. An as-of-yet unconfirmed number of violent protesters were arrested. From the Minster, the protests were escorted by the police to the railway station. Traffic was briefly halted to ensure a swift move from the Minster to the station.
A policeman told The Yorker that the protesters had come from areas of Yorkshire, including Leeds and Newcastle, to gather in York to rally. Outside the Grand Hotel, a policewoman added that the police’s preferred strategy in these circumstances is to walk the group to the railway station and wait with them until a train home arrives.
Members of the police to whom The Yorker spoke could not confirm the political identity of the protesters. Some members of the public described them as Neo-Nazis whereas others believed that it was the work of the English Defence League, the well-known nationalist and anti-Islam campaign group. However, the English Defence League have not released details of any plans to assemble in York today. Elsewhere, some members of the public have suggested that the group were part of National Action.
The North Yorkshire Police are expected to make a statement shortly. The Yorker will continue to report the situation if and when more details emerge.
Update (19:00): National Action has confirmed that it held the march today.
National Action in the Northern Capital today, York. Video to follow soon. pic.twitter.com/1il0IVywU4
— National Action (@NorthWest_NA) May 28, 2016
In an unrelated incident, a man was arrested at the railway station today for drunk and disorderly conduct.