Football Lads Association march: Thousands gather in central London in anti-extremism protest

Chloe Chaplain

Thousands of football fans have gathered on London's Park Lane in demonstration against "extremism".

Members of the anti-extremist group Football Lads Alliance (FLA) from across the country gathered in droves on the busy thoroughfare shortly before 1pm on Saturday, closing the five-lane carriageway to its usual throng of vehicles.

The swell of attendees formed a long channel of fans along the road, some wearing sports caps and carrying flowered wreaths in representation of their local clubs.

The protest, which FLA founder John Meighan said was arranged to demonstrate concern at the "recent upsurge" of UK terror attacks in the wake of the Manchester and London bombings, has been criticised by anti-racism charity Stand Up To Racism.

Former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, joins football fans as they gather at Park Lane (REUTERS)

The charity claimed several speakers at a previous FLA march in June had ties to far-right organisations such as the English Defence League.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was among those who added her name to a petition last week, expressing concern at alleged links to the groups.

But in his address to the crowd on Saturday, Mr Meighan insisted the crowd was made of "normal people" who wanted to unite against a common cause.

He said: "We're against all extremism, no matter what the press say. We're just normal people."

But in a direct message to Ms Abbott, Meighan added: "It's time for you and your motley crew to move over: the FLA are taking over now," drawing boos and chants of "who are you? Who are you?" from the teeming crowd below.

Mr Meighan also drew loud applause in his call for foreign terror suspects to be deported during any ongoing police investigations.

He said: "We want all terrorist suspects who are not British citizens, who pose a threat to society, to be permanently removed from this country.

"Why should they be allowed to do what they do? So what, they're suspects - get them out of here."

Additional reporting from PA.

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