Luton was flooded with 1,500 police as tensions mounted that the right wing organisation's supporters might clash with a counter demonstration by a group from Unite Against Fascism.
Bottles, fireworks and smoke bombs were set off as 1,500 officers tried to contain thousands of English Defence League supporters holding a protest march in Luton today.
The town centre was flooded with police as tensions mounted that the right wing organisation's members might clash with a counter demonstration by a 1,000-strong group from Unite Against Fascism at the same time in the usually busy shopping area.
Two people were arrested on suspicion of public order offences, police said.
Bedfordshire Police said the day of action had concluded peacefully, despite ‘isolated incidents’ of disorder including smoke flares being set off and bottles being thrown towards police officers.
The cost of the police operation is put at between £600,000 and £1million and for the council £600,000.
Bedfordshire Police and Luton council tried to send out the message that Luton was open as normal and encouraged shops in the Mall to remain open.
But many shoppers chose to ignore the advice, instead deciding to stay away amid fears violence might erupt.
A police spokeswoman said a group of people from the counter protest, which formed under the 'We Are Luton' banner, had attempted to break away from the main march but were pushed back by officers.
Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Richer said: ‘Overall the policing of these protests has been a resounding success and is testament to everyone involved including the community themselves and our partners.
‘It is disappointing that we saw disorder from some members of Unite Against Fascism, who were part of the 'We Are Luton' march, who attempted to break out of the agreed protest route. This shows policing of these events is justified as there is such a large area to protect.
‘The policing operation has been in the planning for weeks and the professionalism of the officers was borne out today. We were assisted by 20 forces and it's a great example of how forces can work together in difficult circumstances.
‘I'd like to thank everyone involved in the planning and execution of the operation, all our partner agencies and in particular the community mediators who volunteered to help us communicate.
'Their involvement really made a difference. I am confident the town is now back to normal and disruption has been minimised.’
Police said the two people arrested remained in police custody. A spokeswoman said one was an EDL supporter and the other from the 'We Are Luton' group.
Councillor Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Borough Council, said: ‘I'd like to thank Bedfordshire Police, all the staff at the council and everyone in the community for coming together and again facilitating a peaceful day in Luton.
‘I was very disappointed that the EDL chose to come to Luton again today so soon after their previous protest in February last year which caused large scale disruption to the people of the town and loss of trade for its businesses.
‘I would like to stress that what happened in town today does not represent the real Luton. The Luton I know is a town where people get along well together, celebrate our diversity and work together to overcome challenges.’
Police were on duty to make sure EDL demonstrators did not enter the Bury Park area of Luton, where most of the town's 30,000 Muslim population live.
They also were there to prevent any Muslims attacking the EDL.
The EDL has held demonstrations across the country since it was formed in Luton in March 2009 as a response to Muslim radicals, who disrupted a home-coming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment.
In February, last year, their demonstration in St George's Square in Luton cost businesses £1 million as the shopping centre was closed.