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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
National Front supporters arrested
Anti-Nazi League
The Anti-Nazi League held a counter rally
About 30 National Front supporters have been arrested in the Sunderland area for public order offences.

Most of the arrests occurred when officers stopped a coach from Birmingham on the outskirts of the city, and police say there was no violence involved.

The arrests came as a planned demonstration by the far-right group in the centre of the city failed to materialise.

Members of the group had been given permission by police to protest for 15 minutes from 1430 BST on Saturday on land near Sunderland's main police station.


The only thing the National Front has got to offer the human race is hatred

Bill Etherington MP
But there was no sign of the NF supporters, although police kept a presence in the area and monitored a group of men, believed to be NF members.

The arrests were made after police spotter teams tracked a coach of believed NF members, including national events organiser Terry Blackham, entering the force area.

Police say the men were arrested to prevent a breach of the peace, after they had transferred to a public service vehicle.

Northumbria Police Chief Superintendent Bob Pattison said: "We carried out a significant police operation which contained a situation which had the potential for serious public disorder, but which ended without any outbreaks of violence, although there were a number of arrests.

"I believe Northumbria Police have sent a positive message today to those who wish to come to this area to stir up racial unrest that they are not welcome and will be firmly dealt with."

He added: "Additional police officers will be on patrol in Sunderland tonight."

The NF says it is protesting at the growing number of asylum seekers and refugees in Sunderland.

It wanted to march through the streets of the city but that was blocked after Northumbria police and Sunderland City Council successfully applied to the home secretary for a banning order.

Catalysts

More than 150 Anti-Nazi League supporters met in the centre of Sunderland on Saturday to protest against the planned rally.

Speakers urged them not to be provoked into violence.

Sunderland North Labour MP Bill Etherington said: "I hope everyone here will respect that this is a peaceful demonstration.

"The only thing the National Front has got to offer the human race is hatred.

"I would urge everyone to disperse peacefully at the end of this rally and to take these people on verbally and democratically, because if you do that they cannot make any headway."

Police and community leaders are anxious that such marches do not become catalysts for the sort of racial violence seen in several northern English towns this summer.

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BBC Wales's Steve Jones
"All police leave will be cancelled and up to 150 extra officers drafted in."


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