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Police warning over racial tension

Police have warned of "robust" action for anyone seeking to "take advantage" of racial tensions in a town where Asian takeaways have been attacked.

A group of around 100 people, including adults and children, congregated in the centre of the Heywood area of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on Thursday night to raise "concerns", police said.

Superintendent Chris Hankinson, from Greater Manchester Police, said a small number of people then began to cause trouble. The disorder is linked to a trial at Liverpool Crown Court relating to alleged grooming and sexual exploitation.

Officers were pelted with bricks and other missiles and two arrests were made after windows were damaged at a takeaway. One car belonging to a member of the public and three police vehicles were also damaged. An officer suffered bruising to his legs and arms.

Mr Hankinson, in charge of neighbourhood policing in Rochdale, told a press conference at Rochdale police station: "Those that seek to use what's going on at the moment in Liverpool to further their racist agenda will be dealt with robustly.

"The important bit for us is Rochdale has a very, very strong history of community cohesion and it's important that's not de-railed by a few. There was a group of residents that turned up to display their concern. There were probably a very small, and I'm talking single numbers of individuals, that sought to take advantage of that."

The officer added that police have held meetings during the day and have a "robust" plan in place to "allay the fears of the community".

The English Defence League (EDL) is planning to hold a protest in Hyde, Greater Manchester, on Saturday after a white youngster was beaten up, allegedly by a group of Asian men. Mr Hankinson said: "There are clear racial elements behind this. The EDL are coming to Manchester again on Saturday. We have a robust policing operation in place, I'm very confident of that policing operation."

And he went on to warn people using Facebook or Twitter not to stir up trouble. "People feel they can sit behind their curtains on a computer and start putting emotive language and claims on Facebook that can result in people gathering for what would appear to be legitimate reasons but can sometimes be hijacked," he said.

"The message from me to those people is: think about what you are putting and what that reaction may well cause if you put something inflammatory on it. We are, as a police service, monitoring all the sites. Where we see things that are inflammatory or trying to incite or corral people for criminal activity, we will act."

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