Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Violence flares at EDL protest

A man is injured during a English Defence League demonstration in Leicester
A man is injured during a English Defence League demonstration in Leicester
Police hold back a protester during an English Defence League demonstration in Leicester
Police clash with English Defence League supporters in Leicester

A huge police operation kept violence largely at bay as rival protest groups gathered in a city centre.

Around 2,000 officers were on duty to keep rival factions apart as the English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) held demonstrations in Leicester.

In what the force said was its largest policing operation in 25 years, officers from 12 other forces were drafted in to help keep the peace. Police said there were 13 arrests.

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Theresa May authorised a blanket ban on marches in Leicester, but the groups were still permitted to hold static demonstrations in Humberstone Gate East in the city.

According to police around 1,000 EDL members and 700 UAF supporters arrived for two separate protests.

EDL members, many wearing EDL branded hoodies and carrying banners, arrived on coaches from across the country and were permitted to drink in four pubs in the Hotel Street area of the city, before being bussed to the protest site.

Some chanted and carried banners bearing slogans including "Sharia laws will destroy britain and all our british values", and a window was smashed but no violence broke out.

At the protest site, some shops were boarded up and metal barriers were put between the two groups.

Police in riot gear, dog handlers and mounted officers supervised sporadic violence as missiles and smoke bombs were hurled by EDL members while a police helicopter hovered overhead. One officer was stretchered to safety after suffering a leg injury, but police said he was later treated and discharged.

Trouble flared after the protest when a small group of EDL supporters broke away from the group and confronted a group of local Asian and black youths in the Highfields area of the city. But the violence was brought under control by police who dispersed the group.

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