Page last updated at 20:23 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

Hundreds gather for city protests

Police cordon (photo by Adam Gray)
A police cordon was formed around the EDL supporters in City Square.

More than 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Leeds city centre amid a heavy police presence as a group staged a protest against Islamic extremism.

Police said about 900 English Defence League (EDL) supporters joined the rally in City Square. They were penned in by a ring of officers.

A rival protest of up to 1,500 Unite Against Fascism (UAF) supporters took place nearby in Victoria Gardens.

Five people were arrested for minor public order offences.

The EDL supporters were escorted back to the nearby railway station once the rally ended.

However, about 500 UAF supporters remained under police observation in the Victoria Gardens area.

Hundreds of police officers were brought into the city to act as a barrier between the rival protesters.

Officers feared there could be disorder and urged young Muslims and students to avoid getting involved in any trouble.

Mosques plea

Police visited mosques in the city on Thursday to urge young people not to get drawn into any disorder.

West Yorkshire Police also sent an e-mail to students in Leeds which said: "Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest, but people who take this too far and commit unlawful acts can expect to be positively dealt with by West Yorkshire Police.

Anti-fascist protesters (photo by Girish Gupta)
Police expected most protesters to demonstrate peacefully

"Being arrested and gaining a criminal conviction for violence or disorder is likely to have a significant impact on your studies, including potential disciplinary proceedings involving your university, and also affect your career prospects after completing your course."

Dozens of people were arrested when trouble broke out at similar protests in Manchester earlier this month and in Birmingham in September.

Ch Supt Mark Milsom, from West Yorkshire Police, said: "We have been involved in ongoing discussions with both groups about their respective events, our aim being to facilitate peaceful protests, with minimum disruption to the public."

Mr Milson said because the EDL focus on Islamic issues, members of local Muslim communities, particularly younger people, "might feel threatened and be tempted into attending".

He said the protests were away from the city's main shopping areas and those travelling to Leeds to shop would be unaffected.

He said the majority of people at the demonstrations wanted them to be peaceful, but anyone who did become involved in disorder would be arrested.

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