Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Police battle to control EDL and UAF protest in Bolton


EDL and UAF protesters clash with police in Bolton

Police have battled with thousands of demonstrators during clashes between the English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in Bolton.

Police said about 1,500 UAF and 2,000 EDL supporters were in Victoria Square and several people were injured.

Sixty-seven people were arrested, including the UAF protest organiser on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder, police said.

The EDL says it opposes "militant Islam" and Sharia law.

UAF accuses the EDL of being a far right party but it describes itself as a peaceful, non-political group.

Dog bite

A 16-year-old girl, who the police said had nothing to do with the protests, was treated after she suffered a panic attack.

Two members of UAF were also taken to hospital with a minor head and a minor ear injury and smoke bombs were set off, the police said.

Protester arrested during EDL and UAF stand off in Bolton
Sixty-seven people were arrested during the demonstrations

Greater Manchester Police said a 19-year-old officer had suffered a fractured finger and another officer was treated for a dog bite.

Many shops and pubs closed in the area and most taxi firms pulled their drivers off the roads for fear of violence.

The protest, which started at about 1000 GMT, has now calmed down.

Protesters for the EDL were escorted away from Victoria Square by police.

UAF supporters were then told to disperse by about 1630 GMT.

A police spokeswoman said there were now only a few people left in the square.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said earlier: "The number of arrests already made is a clear indication that this is not a peaceful protest and some demonstrators are determined to cause trouble.

"We are facing a lot of hostility and will take swift action when confronted with disorder.

"The actions of some demonstrators is resulting in injuries to others. This is not acceptable."

The force warned offenders would be identified from CCTV footage and "brought to justice".

Hindu festival

The EDL published a notice on its website with information about the demonstration.

It said that supporters would only protest peacefully and they were aiming to have "zero arrests".

It stated: "We will not ever submit to the radicals. We will not tolerate their intolerance. We will stand firm and further the cause of the EDL."

EDL supporters were warned not to react to any goading from other parties, but to smile and give the V for victory sign.

The two factions were separated by barriers on the steps of the town hall, which was boarded up.

We and the faith community leaders have done everything within our power to prevent this demonstration due to the risk of violence
Bolton Council leader, Cliff Morris

The leader of Bolton Council, the Bishop of Bolton and representatives from the Council of Mosques and the Hindu Forum wrote to Alan Johnson earlier this week asking for him to ban the demonstration.

But he told them it was not in his power to stop a protest.

Before the protest, council leader Cliff Morris said he was "disappointed" by the home secretary's decision.

"We and the faith community leaders have done everything within our power to prevent this demonstration due to the risk of violence.

"However we understand under current law his powers are extremely limited."

The EDL had postponed its protest, which was due to take place on 6 March, because they did not want it to clash with the timing of Hindu festival, Holi.

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