Three people were arrested tonight as anti-fascist protesters demonstrating against BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on 'Question Time' broke through a security cordon outside BBC Television Centre.
About 25 protesters gained entry to the reception area of the building in White City, west London, as more than 500 people demonstrated outside ahead of the filming of the programme due to be screened on BBC1 tonight.
The Metropolitan Police said there had been three arrests, two for violent disorder and the third of a person wanted on warrant.
The BBC said the disruption was dealt with promptly.
The number of officers on the ground appeared to increase significantly as the crowd grew in numbers during the evening. A police helicopter circled overhead.
Mr Griffin, 50, was due to share the platform with Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Tory peer Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne and writer Bonnie Greer.
As the debate approached, the chants outside Television Centre grew louder with the crowd yelling: “We’re black, white, Asian and Jew, BBC shame on you”, and “we won’t let Nick Griffin through”.
But the BNP leader used a side entrance to gain access to Television Centre.
Senior BBC broadcaster Jeremy Bowen said as he left the building tonight: “I think it’s fine that people are protesting. It’s a legitimate protest. People are making clear their views.
“I think we live in a free society and there’s free speech and while it’s obviously highly controversial, I personally think it’s the right decision to have him on.”
The protesters were on an impromptu march down Wood Lane when the violence first erupted.
Security guards had opened a gate to let a car into the front car park when about 25 protesters jumped over the barrier and ran towards the building.
Police managed to seal off the front entrance to Television Centre and were forced to divert traffic as the demonstrators crowded outside the main building.
Other protesters surged at the police cordon, chanting “Shame on you”.
Some grabbed police officers’ helmets and threw them into the crowd. The protesters also threw wooden poles used to hold placards at the four-deep cordon of officers, who struggled to contain the crowd.
Police medics were on hand to drag tired and injured officers back from the cordon, but there were little reinforcements available.