Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

Trouble at Stoke-on-Trent English Defence League rally


Arrests during trouble at protest

Seventeen people were arrested at an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Stoke-on-Trent after trouble broke out.

Four officers were injured and vehicles were damaged when EDL supporters broke through police cordons. Two of the officers needed hospital treatment.

About 1,500 EDL supporters were at the rally in Hanley on Saturday to protest about Islamic extremism, police said.

Up to 300 members from the group Unite Against Fascism gathered on the other side of Hanley centre.

Multi-faith pledge

Supt Dave Mellor of Staffordshire Police said more than 600 officers had been deployed to the rally and disorder had been "sporadic".

One officer needed hospital treatment for an arm injury, another needed a facial injury examining by doctors. Neither of them were required to stay in hospital overnight. The two other injured officers returned to duty immediately.

During the protest outside The Reginald Mitchell pub in Stoke city centre, the EDL group was surrounded by about 100 officers.

Its members waved placards proclaiming "Patriotism is not racism" and "Terrorists off our streets".

After gathering outside the pub, the protesters walked 200 yards round the corner to Stoke Town Hall.

Unite Against Fascism supporters in Hanley

BBC Midlands Today reporter Matt Cooke said there had been few problems with the Unite Against Fascism demonstration.

He said there was trouble as the EDL crowd dispersed.

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh faith leaders signed a pledge against all forms of racism, ahead of the event.

The Right Rev Gordon Mursell, the Church of England Bishop of Stafford, said after signing the pledge on Thursday: "We believe that real diversity actually helps create a vibrant and attractive city.

"The EDL and BNP think the opposite. That is why we oppose them."

Staffordshire Police said it had sufficient officers in place to deal with the demonstration and had learnt "valuable lessons" from other police forces around the country, who had dealt with similar protests.

It said the people arrested were aged between 17 and 49 and all "linked" to the EDL demonstration.

They were held on suspicion of committing a series of public order offences, violent disorder as well as assaulting a police officer.

Ninety people were arrested following clashes between EDL campaigners and anti-fascist supporters in Birmingham in September.

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