Police have pledged “robust action” and further arrests in the wake of a shocking outbreak of violence at a community centre.
Men reportedly armed with knives, machetes, tools and chairs were involved in a mass brawl at the Bangladeshi Community Centre in Harehills on Saturday.
It was very shocking to hear the news. It’s a concern for everyone – it’s a concern for the ward councillors and it should be a concern for police.Coun Arif Hussain
At least six people were injured as an annual meeting descended into chaos.
Director Abul Abedin managed to escape after police – some of whom were at the Roundhay Road building to marshal the meeting before trouble flared – intervened.
But he said: “I would not be here to tell my story if these people had got their own way. I never in my darkest days dreamed that we would have people attacking each other with knives and machetes.
“I haven’t slept since.”
The building, which is owned by Leeds City Council but leased to the centre committee, hosts a range of meetings, groups and functions.
There have been long-running tensions over how it is run, with members broadly split into two opposing groups.
Among the issues at the centre of the dispute are disagreements about whether people who do not live in the vicinity should be eligible to sit on the committee and to vote in elections.
There have also been allegations of financial mismanagement.
Saturday’s meeting – branded “unconstitutional” by Mr Abedin – was taking place just days before a committee election scheduled for Wednesday.
Mr Abedin said he had already expressed concerns about a possible violent outbreak to the council and police. But when he arrived at the centre with a number of associates he was told by officers that it was safe to go inside.
“Within two minutes, these guys came at us with weapons and started laying into us,” he said.
Abul Kashem, another of those who was attacked, said weapons were later found in a car parked outside
“They were waiting for us,” he said. “We raised concerns with the council about potential problems, but were reassured that it would be okay.
“It was unbelievable.”
Thirteen people have already been arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and are currently on bail, but police say they expect further arrests to come.
Chris Bowen, chief inspector of neighbourhoods for police in Leeds, appealed for information.
He said: “We will take robust action against anyone violating this democratic process, and remind people to act with dignity and respect during and after the election process.”
“There is a lot of personal footage online, as well as the attending officer’s body-worn camera footage that is continuing to be reviewed.
“I would appeal for anyone who has personal footage of the incident to bring it forward to assist us with our investigation.”
Call police on 101.