A group of masked and hooded men surrounded a Hindu temple in Birmingham, throwing fireworks and missiles at police officers as religious tensions in the West Midlands worsen, according to footage. Local police said they had arrested a teenager at the protest, which took place last night, on suspicion of possessing a knife, while stop and search powers were used to disperse the crowds. Video of the mob shows men jumping onto the railings surrounding the Durga Bhawan Hindu temple, with witnesses claiming bottles were thrown.
Police reportedly arrived with riot helmets and shields, confronting the crowd of predominantly Muslim men while they climbed the surrounding boundary fence.
The protest, intended to be peaceful, is believed to have been staged after the temple in Smethwick had organised for a female Hindu leader, considered controversial for spreading hate speech against other countries, to address its members. That event was cancelled prior to the mob arriving but the protest still went ahead.
West Midlands police said they were aware of the event and were working with faith leaders and others to monitor the situation.
In their latest update on Wednesday, the West Midlands police said: “Following a protest gathering in Smethwick last night (20 September), there was some minor disorder and one person was arrested.
Local councillor Ahmad Bostan condemned the protest, writing: “The despicable scenes witnessed in Smethwick tonight do not represent the harmonious rich diversity of our town and those who came with ill intentions will be dealt with by the law.
“Our communities stand together against such bigotry and the peddlers of hate are not welcome here.”
A member of the Durga Bhawan temple committee, Mr. Upasakk, told Birmingham World: “We have informed the police. We were told about the protest by the Chair of the Imam group in Sandwell. People are trying to create a situation like Leicester here. There have never been any issues here between communities so far and we are not a BJP/RSS centre.”
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The BJP and RSS groups to which Mr Upasakk referred to are, respectively, the ruling political party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been accused of passing policies and pursuing a religiously divisive agenda, and an all-male Hindu nationalist volunteer group called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The RSS has also been described as a paramilitary organisation.
Another video filmed in Smethwick last night showed a masked man telling the camera that any Hindus who supported the RSS or BJP were “not welcome in Birmingham or Leicester”, adding: “You’re not welcome anywhere in the UK.”
In Leicester, after violence broke out over the weekend, community leaders appealed for calm, accusing outsiders of spreading misinformation to stoke tensions.
Leicestershire Police said they are investigating attacks on both communities, including assaults on Muslim men and the egging of a Hindu family’s home.