An East End Gay Pride march was quietly held in Tower Hamlets on Saturday with just a few dozen people.

Marchers walked from King Edward Memorial Park in Shadwell to Poplar Park carrying rainbow flags while a heavy police presence kept watch.

Twenty-one police officers were posted to the small event, while a police helicopter hovered above.

Marchers said they received some anti-gay abuse from drivers, although the event was generally peaceful.

Last month, a Pride parade to be held on the same day was cancelled after it was revealed that one of the organisers, Raymond Berry, was a former member of the English Defence League.

The event became controversial as local groups Rainbow Hamlets and Out East accused the march of being a front for the EDL.

They also claimed that it would cause tensions between gay people and Muslims in the area after homophobic stickers were plastered on buildings.

Saturday’s small event, billed as an ‘East End Gay Pride Gathering and March’, was organised by web consultant Joseph Newman-Saunders, who defended his decision not to publicise it.

He said he had spread the word about the event on Facebook groups and that it was “not about publicity”.

Mr Newman-Saunders, who said that 30 people joined the march, said: “It wasn’t about religion or getting press attention.”

He added: “This event is a clear signal that LGBT people are very proud to be part of the rich and diverse communities of London’s East End.

“I hope this peaceful, non-political and non-religious initiative provokes a much-needed debate about how we can build a tolerant, cohesive society in which everyone can live together without discrimination or intimidation.”

Jack Gilbert of Rainbow Hamlets, who criticised the decision to hold the original march, said: “Given our concerns, we are pleased that the event passed without incident.

“However, when less than 20 people attended, this does not constitute a Pride march.”

He added that a “large-scale” Pride event would be announced later in the year.