Bullring closed and buses diverted following Birmingham protest
A political protest in central Birmingham today resulted in the Bullring shopping centre being forced into lockdown while regular bus services were diverted from the city centre.
The unscheduled protest, which drew over 100 demonstrators to Carrs Lane, spilled into High Street and outside the Bullring, where a police cordon was installed as the shopping centre was surrounded by a heavy uniformed police presence supported by several police vans.
As a precaution, the Bullring initiated a lockdown at around 1700 hours, allowing shoppers inside the complex to leave but preventing members of the public from entering the premises. The lockdown remained in effect for around two hours.
Attendees were reportedly demonstrating against Innocence of Muslims, a crudely-made and controversial American film depicting the prophet Muhammad, which has already sparked international protests and a number of deaths, including 19 in Pakistan.
The Birmingham protest, which began at 3pm, resulted in minor scuffles as some protesters were escorted by police from the Bullring back down High Street and on to Carrs Lane where the road was sealed and police dogs used as a crowd control initiative.
Public transport in the area was diverted as bus stops and public footpaths became inaccessible due to the protest. A statement from National Express West Midlands stated:
“Due to an unscheduled protest taking place in Carrs Lane and Moor Street Queensway buses are being diverted. Inspectors are on hand to monitor the situation and to help and advise passengers. Police Officers are also in attendance.”
Explaining the lockdown at the Bullring shopping centre, spokesperson Emma Roberts told I Am Birmingham:
“As a precautionary measure Bullring has locked its external doors after consultation with the police due to a protest currently taking place on Rotunda Square. As always our primary concern is the welfare of our shoppers and retailers.”
A number of shoppers and onlookers took to social media networks to vent their views on the large gathering, with some mistakenly suggesting another riot was due to ensue following last year’s disturbances.
On Facebook, Birmingham residents called for calm. Nadia Ansari expressed concern for students trying to get home from schools and colleges. She posted: “Demos off the hook in town (Brum City) – niece leaving college and got pushed by the cops with her friends. She’s waiting to get home. Please keep her and all the other schoole/college/uni kids in your duas who are trying to get home – this is just pathetic now absolutely pathetic!!!”
Local community activist Shabz Ahmed pleaded: “If you’re reading this & are in Birmingham City Center [sic] right now taking part in the demo against the Anti Islam film – my sincere advice is please make your way home – Islam isn’t about shouting, screaming, causing trouble & frightening the people – There are many workers, students, young & elderly trying to make their way home to get back to their families for the weekend.”
“If you really cared about Islam, you would wear Islam – Islam would be in your words & actions – A Demo where you will get yourself arrested doesn’t look good nor will it achieve anything. Go home, listen to your parents, be productive, help your community, clean the local area, visit the elderly, do something that Islam encourages rather than discourages!! #GoHomeNow!!”
@ParwinderMattu tweeted: “Riots in central Birmingham, kids making their way into Bullring ready to loot”, to which user @Majstar7 responded, “stop making things up its [sic] a #protest”.
Despite the speculation, police confirmed that no crimes had been reported and most city centre businesses remained open. By the end of the evening, a total of three arrests were made. The three men remain in police custody.
An official statement from the force described the protest as “peaceful” and read: “Shops and businesses in the city remain open although some have taken the decision to temporarily limit access to their premises.
“West Midlands Police have no power to ban a static protest – in fact the right to protest peacefully is a sign of a healthy democracy and we have a positive duty to facilitate that right.”