Officers were called to the Harehills area of the city after reports of people throwing fireworks and setting fire to bins at about 8.25pm.
Footage posted on social media showed police in riot gear blocking projectiles with their shields and running down the street as burning embers landed around them. Several people were arrested.
“It’s absolute madness on Harehills Road,” said one woman who was driving through the area at the time. “Literally hundreds of young people, it’s like they are rioting.”
Another tweeted: “I am so scared right now. Riots happening at the top of my street! Fireworks, bricks being thrown at police officers, vans, cars! It’s like a war!”
No one was hurt but several vehicles were damaged, West Yorkshire Police said.
Officers closed Harehills Road as they sought to contain the trouble, with a police helicopter called in to assist.
“A number of people have been arrested and investigations are currently ongoing to identify all those involve, with CCTV enquiries being conducted,” the force said in a statement.
Fireworks and bricks were also thrown at police in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, forcing a van to be taken off the road. Constable Rachel Storey tweeted: “We’re just trying to do our job! Disgusted.”
Chief Superintendent Damien Miller said: “In conjunction with our partner agencies, we have prepared for all possible eventualities over the bonfire period.
“We made it clear from the outset that any instances of disorder or antisocial behaviour would not be tolerated and we were able to quickly respond.
“Those individuals that engage in such behaviour are within the minority and do not represent the wider community. We will continue to provide reassurance in the local area with high visibility patrols.”