Skirmishes break out at Bradford demonstration

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The Independent Online

Skirmishes broke out today at a controversial demonstration by far-right group the English Defence League.

EDL supporters threw bottles, cans, stones and a smoke bomb at opponents gathered in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Police moved the public away for their own safety as missiles sailed over a temporary 8ft high barricade separating the two groups congregating at the Urban Gardens.

Opponents of the EDL, Unite Against Fascism/We Are Bradford, met about half a mile away at the Crown Court Plaza to hold an alternative static demonstration.

At lunchtime, buses began bringing EDL supporters from towns and cities including Hull, Merseyside, Manchester, Stoke, Southport, Dudley, Wigan and Stockport.

Police erected the barricade around the Urban Gardens to ensure EDL members and their opponents were kept apart.

Only one entrance to the gardens was open and protesters had to pass through metal detectors to gain entry.

Beyond the heavy police guard, opponents gathered to hold their own demonstration and the two groups traded insults with each other.

Several hundred people gathered in the Urban Gardens, many wearing black EDL hooded tops with the name of their home town or city printed on the back.

One EDL member, a Muslim called Abdul Salaam, 40, from Glasgow, was escorted into the gardens by police under a chorus of shouting from opponents.

Unravelling a Glasgow Rangers flag, he asked reporters: "Why are they against the United Kingdom?

"Islam doesn't teach you hatred, it teaches you peace.

"These people are hypocrites, they are not true Muslims."

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."

A skirmish broke out between EDL supporters and riot police.

One protester managed to break through the police cordon but was quickly apprehended by officers and escorted back to the EDL demonstration.

Dozens of EDL members climbed over one of the police barricades and made their way into neighbouring waste ground, where they began throwing missiles at the police.

The rioters made their way from the waste ground onto Kirkgate where they were quickly apprehended by police.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "At this stage there has been five arrested as part of the operation.

"Police are currently working to ensure the protesters leave the city and we will continue to have a high profile presence to reassure the people of Bradford.

"We thank people for their patience and support so far and we hope to have protesters removed from the city as soon as possible."

One EDL supporter was carried to an ambulance on a stretcher after injuring his leg, and was taken away to hospital.