Protesters calling for Tommy Robinson’s release gather in London

By Aine Fox, PA

A heavy police presence has kept pro and anti-Tommy Robinson demonstrators apart in central London.

Supporters of the jailed former English Defence League leader marched down Regent Street, calling for Robinson to be freed from prison.

Carrying England and Union flags, umbrellas with Robinson’s name on them and singing “We want Tommy out”, a large crowd congregated at Oxford Circus on Saturday.

Strict conditions were imposed by police on the demonstration and a counter demonstration planned by Stand Up To Racism, limiting the groups to specific areas and a certain time period.

Tommy Robinson supporters are watched by police (Steve Parsons/PA)

Shoppers, tourists and people out for lunch stood and watched from the pavements, with some filming on their phones, as pro-Robinson protesters chanted “Whose streets? Our streets” while moving towards Langham Place, near BBC headquarters.

They were kept apart from the smaller counter-demo at Portland Place by a police barricade of vans and officers on both foot and horseback.

There were tense scenes at one point as some of the pro-Robinson supporters broke off and marched part-way down Oxford Street and Regent Street before being escorted by police as they returned to Langham Place.

Officers with batons drawn later formed a line in front of protesters as they took a detour through a side-street and gathered in front of the BBC building.

Crowds listened as various speakers gathered outside All Souls Church, where a bus was parked with Robinson’s face displayed along the side, calling for him to be freed.

A police helicopter hovered above throughout the demo, which began shortly before midday and ended at 3pm.

Robinson has been jailed for contempt of court (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ahead of the protests, Scotland Yard warned that anyone breaching the conditions set for the demos could be arrested and prosecuted.

Commander Kyle Gordon, gold commander for the operation, said: “Anyone breaching these conditions will be liable to arrest and prosecution.

“I have a full policing operation in place and we will be proactive in ensuring any impact on our communities is minimised, while ensuring anyone who is intent on violence is dealt with swiftly and robustly.”

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was handed a nine-month sentence at the Old Bailey last month – of which he will serve just nine-and-a-half weeks – after he was found to have committed contempt of court.

The 36-year-old, of Luton, Bedfordshire, had filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage on Facebook, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

The judge said Robinson’s conduct had amounted to a “serious contempt” and involved “reckless disobedience” of an important court order, imposed to protect a trial and a later linked trial.

Organisers from Stand Up To Racism said their gathering was to show that “Robinson and his followers are not welcome in our streets”, accusing him of seeking to “divide and rule our multicultural society”.