Bradford: Smoke bombs thrown at English Defence League protest

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More than 1,600 officers on horseback and in riot gear pen in 700 activists, including BNP members and soccer thugsFar-right activists threw smoke bombs and missiles and fought with the police as trouble flared in a protest organised by the English Defence League.Bricks and bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at anti-racist supporters and police as around 700 EDL activists including known football hooligans and BNP members held a "static protest" in Bradford city centre. Mounted officers and others in riot gear were attacked as they pushed the EDL into a penned area. Skirmishes continued as EDL speakers addressed the crowd and there was more violence as its supporters were put back on coaches.More than 1,600 officers from 13 forces were involved in the police operation amid fears the demonstration would descend into violence. Police said there had been five arrests.The EDL, which has held demonstrations in towns and cities across the country over the past 12 months, had predicted that thousands of its supporters would turn out in Bradford for what was dubbed "the big one", but police said there were around 700 people.Earlier in the afternoon coachloads of EDL activists had chanted "Allah, Allah who the fuck is Allah?" and "Muslim bombers off our streets".One of the coach drivers said: "I didn't expect a job like this when I came to work this morning. We're a five-star firm. We don't usually take scumbags like these."Thousands of anti-racists and local residents joined counter-protests and events organised around the city. Mohammed Khan, 29, said: "We want to show the people of the UK that Bradford is a united and peaceful place, where Asians, white people everyone gets along. Nobody here wants these people. They are just trying to divide this city and provoke trouble."Several hundred people gathered at a community celebration at Infirmary Fields near Manningham, where running battles between youths and police took place in 2001. "Everyone wanted to join in to tell people how good this city is," said Surhra Bibi from Bradford's Fairbank Road.Hundreds of other demonstrators joined an event organised by Unite Against Fascism in the city centre.Earlier this month Theresa May, the home secretary, authorised a ban on the march but police and politicians claimed that they were powerless to prevent the far-right group holding a "static protest".Yesterday, as the demonstration came to an end, fights broke out among rival gangs within the EDL and local teenagers and anti racist campaigners were kept back by mounted police.A West Yorkshire police spokesman said: "Missiles have been thrown in the area around the Bradford Urban Gardens; however, this has been contained and the police are utilising their resources to manage the current situation."The decision by Bradford council to seek a marching ban followed a formal request by West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, made after his force carried out a risk assessment of the proposed event. Bettison said he was taking the action after considering the "understandable concerns of the community".David Ward the local Liberal Democrat MP, who attended the event in Infirmary Fields, said the city had moved on in the past nine years."This is a celebration of all that is good about Bradford. We're not so much a big city as a collection of villages communities which get along and today have got along. I want no part of the hatred some people are showing in our city centre. We have moved on from 2001. I hope today is the day that is made clear."The EDL, formed last year, has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. It claims to be a peaceful, non-racist organisation opposed only to "militant Islam". But many of its demonstrations have ended in confrontations with the police after supporters became involved in violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting.In May, the Guardian revealed that the EDL was planning to step up its Islamophobic street campaign, targeting Bradford and Tower Hamlets in London.English Defence LeagueBritish identity and societyThe far rightMatthew TaylorMartin © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds

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