11 arrested amid Bristol EDL rally

 

A controversial English Defence League (EDL) demonstration and a major opposition rally were praised for passing peacefully today despite 11 arrests.

Up to 300 far right campaigners marched through Bristol in protest at what it claims is the "islamification" of the city.

Two local EDL supporters had previously received death threats in the run up to today's potentially violent public protest.

But a determined police drive to ensure the rival rallies passed off peacefully appears to have been successful.

Avon and Somerset Police drafted in extra officers from as far afield as Yorkshire to swell the ranks of the riot control force to 1,000.

Isolated clashes took place between the police and EDL protesters as the rally wound down and supporters left the city.

Missiles were thrown at one point and burning paper tossed into wheelie bins in a failed attempt to start a blaze.

Earlier, demonstrators walked through rain swept streets to Queen Square where EDL leaders made speeches to their supporters.

At the same time up to 500 anti-EDL protesters with the We Are Bristol campaign marched in the city in an counter-demonstration.

Simultaneously hundreds more people were marching as part of this year's Bristol Pride celebrations.

A pride parade to Collage Green marked the end of a week of events celebrating the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

A senior police chief praised the community in Bristol today for the calm way in which the marches passed off.

But a large police presence will remain in Bristol tonight to ensure the city's Saturday evening routine passes normally.

Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: "This has been a challenging day and I would like to thank the community for their patience and support.

"I have always maintained that the central shopping and tourist destinations should remain unaffected and I am pleased that the city centre has remained trouble-free.

"Despite the demands placed on our officers we have also been able to support Bristol Pride which I know is an important and well supported event in the city's calendar.

"Finally, I would like to thank all the officers and staff who have taken part in today's operation. Some have come from as far away as Yorkshire to help keep our city running smoothly. We have also had excellent support from the other agencies working alongside us."

A police spokesman added: "This afternoon the English Defence League and We Are Bristol demonstrations took place around Queen Square and Castle Park.

"The majority of people taking part in the march were well behaved, in good spirits and caused no problems to the local community.

"There was a large police presence in the area to ensure peaceful events and we have responded quickly to a small number of minor incidents.

"There have been only eleven arrests for offences including going equipped to cause damage, assaulting a police officer and failing to leave an area when directed to do so by a police officer.

"Police estimate that around 300 EDL supporters and 500 We Are Bristol supporters took part in their respective marches."

All those arrested remain in police custody.

The spokesman added: "As well as the marches Bristol Pride is also taking place on College Green. With 700 people attending it is well supported and everyone attending is in good spirits."

PA

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