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Protests were 'mainly peaceful'

11 October 09 11:03 GMT

Two demonstrations in Manchester city centre were "well managed" according to the police and the groups taking part.

More than 2,000 people, from Unite Against Fascism and the English Defence League (EDL) protested in the city's Piccadilly Gardens on Saturday.

There were 48 arrests, mostly for public order offences, though four people were held on the more serious charge of affray.

A police spokesman said: "We made swift arrests to keep things calm."

At least 500 police officers, including some in riot gear, acted as a barrier between EDL and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protesters in Piccadilly Gardens.

Witnesses said there were some "ugly scenes" where the protesters clashed with the police and the atmosphere was "pretty tense" but the situation did not break out into wide-scale violence.

Members of EDL, who were protesting against Islamic extremism, said the police "had acted fairly" and they "had managed to get their point across".

Tommy Robinson, spokesman for the party, said: "I think we proved a lot during the protests.

"We had people from all backgrounds, black, Asian and white on our side - we are not against Islam we are against extremists.

"I think there was about 1,000 of us in the end, we had a few injured when the police dogs got us but on the whole we feel it was very well managed."

Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of UAF, said he was pleased that so many came out in force, but warned of complacency.

'Potential for trouble'

He said: "We have to make sure that we do protest against groups like this. There were about 2,000 of us, but we need the whole city to unite against these people.

"There weren't the nasty scenes that took over Birmingham last month and it was well-controlled by the police - they managed to keep the EDL away from us."

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: "When we heard that the protests were going to be staged we knew that there was a potential for trouble.

"We drafted plans with the council and other agencies and it was similar planning that goes in when handling thousands of football fans after a match, so of course it proved a challenge, but we had broadly peaceful protests.

"We used horses to keep them apart so they could make their point peacefully and where we saw people breaking the law we were able to make swift arrests to keep things calm."

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