EDL march through Leeds passes off peacefully

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A so-called ‘walk of silence’ in Leeds by supporters of the English Defence League passed off peacefully, albeit noisily.

Around 100 people massed in City Square for 2pm on June 1, heeding invites by the party for members around the country to gather with tributes for the murdered soldier Drummer Lee Rigby, who was slain near his barracks in Woolwich a little over a week ago.

Many had ignored calls for those attending to not drink prior to the event, and made their way to the square from surrounding pubs and bars.

Some of those attending carried small bouquets of flowers while a small number wore Help for Heroes T-shirts.

Police vans had parked up around the square ahead of the event, while uniformed police officers and four officers on horseback lined the area.

Bemused shoppers walked through the crowd, largely unaware of the purpose of the gathering, and diners at the adjacant bar and restaurant tried to ignore the growing numbers.

Sporadic chanting began ringing out shortly before 2pm but as a small group unfurled a flag, to cheers, and walked towards the upper end of the square approaching Park Row, officers warned them they would not be permitted to go further.

After negotiations, a group of around a dozen, carrying a flag and some floral tributes, headed up Park Row at around 2.20pm, walking in the middle of the road, flag held aloft and chanting loudly, buses crawling along behind or halted at the kerb.

Police officers had also ringed the war memorial outside the Leeds Art Gallery, where anti-fascist protestors had also gathered.

Angry confrontations between the two groups were limited by the line of police officers who separated them, with reinforcements arriving on the scene.

Finally, EDL supporters held their flag aloft and lay their tributes, before standing in silence, watched by passers-by.

They broke with applause and jeers from the anti-fascist protestors, prompting a further round of chanting by EDL supporters and angry confrontations before police herded them back down Park Row.

At City Square, some of the supporters had dispersed, with those remaining coralled to a small traffic island outside the Park Plaza hotel, surrounded by police.

A small group climbed up onto the Black Prince statue, with flags, posing for photos, while those confined to the traffic island began singing and chanting,.

The groups dispersed shortly after 3pm when police told them to leave the area.

A similar event in Sheffield was largely uneventful, with students and anti-fascist protestors easily outnumbering EDL supporters, and drowning out the chanting with singing.