'This is not Harehills': Community praise heroic volunteers after Bonfire Night violence

A councillor has praised the 'resilient' Harehills community as residents hit back at yobs who attacked police on Bonfire Night.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 5:00 pm

Riot police were rushed to Harehills last night when youths threw fireworks and missiles, set fire to bins and assaulted officers.

But Harehills residents have praised community volunteers who bravely stepped out onto Harehills Road to try to stop the violence.

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Adam Aslam, Leeds Street Team's youth engagement coordinator, believes that the large majority of troublemakers were not from Harehills but had travelled into Harehills Road.

He said: "I was in the middle of it all and large groups were coming from outside Harehills.

"People were coming out of their houses to question the young people and ask them to leave the bins alone - but residents were then being fired at.

"That’s how I realised a lot of young people were not from our areas."

Adam says that many young volunteers from the Infinity centre, on Conway Road, were running positive activities at the same time that yobs were firing missiles at police.

He added: "This is really important to point out because if the young people don't get empowered for their hard work, it may deter them next year and they may be tempted to give up and get involved in the violence."

-> Watch the shocking moment youths in Harehills launch fireworks at riot policeKaren Harris has lived in Harehills for 27 years and praised the bravery of young volunteers who went out to help.

She said: "I witnessed one young lad go to the aid of a local resident who had fallen down when going to get her stolen bin and then had fireworks fired at her.

"He went to help and then had fireworks thrown at him, one of which ignited and burnt through his jacket.

"They were extremely brave. We need more people to stand up and say no to the nonsense."

Police initially responded to reports of youths gathering in the Banstead Park area and lighting a fire at about 6pm and were assisted by community mediators who attempted to disperse the youths.

However by 8.30pm, Adam says volunteers had to leave the scene when the firework attacks on Harehills Road became increasingly severe.

Labour Councillor Salma Arif has praised community groups such as Leeds Street Team who she says are doing "fantastic work."

Coun Arif said: “It's awful what happened and I’m appalled by the behaviour of some individuals.

“Of course something like this will catch the media’s attention, but if you have ever been to Harehills you will know that there is so much good happening.

"As Harehills councillor and someone who has lived in Harehills all their life - this is not Harehills.

“We have one night like this that spoils things, but we have to dust ourselves off and make sure the community feels reassured."

Coun Arif urged young people not to think of Harehills as a place where they can get away with violent behaviour and praised community groups which have been working tirelessly to prevent anti-social behaviour during the past week.

She said: “Youth groups are doing fantastic work and local young kids are engaging positively, they are helping their community and getting involved in positive activities.

"Harehills is a vibrant community with people from all walks of life, it’s amazing as a community and very resilient.

“It’s a minority of people that have come in and spoilt it for everyone else."