Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Clashes after rival city marches

SDL protestors in Glasgow
Members of the SDL gathered in the city centre before being dispersed

Two rival marches have led to a number of minor skirmishes in Glasgow.

About 1,500 anti-racism protesters marched through the city under the banner Scotland United, in opposition to the Scottish Defence League (SDL).

The SDL - an offshoot of the English Defence League - had been attempting to hold an "anti-Islamist" demonstration.

There were clashes outside Central Station and at several points around the city centre. Police said they had made five arrests.

The Scotland United rally, backed by trade unions, politicians and faith groups, gathered at Glasgow Green and marched to George Square.

This has been a successful operation for Strathclyde Police and our partners
Fiona Taylor
Strathclyde Police

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who attended the rally, organised to oppose the views of those involved with the SDL.

Police said about 80 SDL protesters gathered in Cambridge Street, north of the city centre, and there were clashes.

The SDL protesters, some with their faces partly covered with scarves, sang songs and chanted "SDL" as they held their demonstration.

Supporters of the controversial group, some waving flags or holding SDL banners, were surrounded by police officers who kept them apart from a group of counter-protesters who had congregated in the area.

Shouts of "scum" were hurled in the direction of the SDL by some onlookers, while the group responded by clapping and waving at those who objected to their presence.

Hundreds of police officers had gathered in Cambridge Street in a bid to prevent disruption during the static protest.

About 1,500 anti-fascist protesters marched to George Square

Dozens of police cars and vans lined the streets in the Cowcaddens area and police motorcyclists circled around the area while a police helicopter kept watch from above.

The SDL demonstration ended when its protesters boarded buses to take them away from the area.

The SDL were dispersed to other parts of the city, police said. There was later a heavy police presence in the Paisley Road area to the south of the city centre.

Strathclyde Police estimated about 80 people took part in the SDL protest and said some 1,500 attended the Scotland United rally at George Square.

Five men had been arrested - one in connection with an alleged racial breach of the peace in the Ibrox area.

The other four were arrested in connection with alleged breaches of the peace in the city centre and in the Central Station area.

'Minor incidents'

Assistant Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: "This has been a successful operation for Strathclyde Police and our partners. Having two high profile demonstrations taking place in the city at the same time was always going to be a challenge. I am pleased to say that we met that challenge and that the day passed off with only minor incidents reported.

"When planning for a day like today, we always have to strike a balance between protecting people's right to peaceful protest and ensuring that the city continues to operate with the minimum of disruption to the people who live and work here. I believe we achieved just that."

"I would like to thank the public for their patience and co-operation both in the run up to and during today's events. The fact that they passed off without any major incident is a tribute to Glasgow and its people."

The English Defence League has held several demonstrations, including events in London, Manchester and Leeds, in recent months.

The group describes accusations of racism or fascism as "flat-out untrue".

The SDL was formed in protest against Muslim "extremists" and "jihadists", the group has said. It has accused the UK government of not taking significant action against the "Islamist assault" which the group claims is threatening British culture.

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