POLICE outnumbered demonstrators to ensure two rival protests passed off peacefully.
A huge operation involving about 700 officers swung into action across West Yorkshire to prevent trouble as the English Defence League (EDL) held a demonstration in Dewsbury.
About 500 EDL supporters from across the country gathered outside the town’s railway station on Saturday.
Fewer than 75 people attended a counter-demonstration by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) less than half a mile along the ring road.
There were six arrests, although none at the two protest sites. Some shops and market stalls closed because of a lack of trade in the town centre as shoppers stayed away.
But Chief Superintendent John Robins, boss of Kirklees police, said in general it was “business as usual”.
He thanked those involved in both protests, but added: “In order for events like this to pass of peacefully, it takes a great deal of planning by a number of different agencies and organisations.
“That comes with an implication for policing and for councils and the voluntary sector, and the ultimate implication is the loss of trade for business communities and the fear and anxiety within communities.”
Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan, who watched the demonstration, said: “In the last 10 days we have worked 15 hours a day to plan and prepare for something that lasted less than an hour outside Dewsbury Railway Station.
“The community did not take part in the EDL demonstration or the UAF campaign. They decided to reject messages that would divide the community in Dewsbury perpetrated by those who have no interest in Dewsbury.”
Demonstrators for the EDL, which claims to campaign against Islamic extremism and to protect English traditions, started to gather outside the railway station in the late morning. Surrounded by British Transport Police and mounted officers, and watched by the West Yorkshire Police helicopter, they held anti-Islamic banners and chanted slogans. At 2pm, the demonstrators were ushered into a metal pen to hear speeches.
An EDL spokesman said the group were planning another rally in Dewsbury.