Arrests in Blackburn as EDL and opponents protest

EDL protesters
Image caption About 2,000 EDL supporters attended the rally, police estimated

Protests by the English Defence League and opposing groups in Blackburn led to 12 arrests in a major police operation.

About 2,000 EDL supporters gathered for their protest near King George's Hall on Northgate, according to police.

Opposing protesters, who were kept about 150m (490ft) away, said their gathering was a celebration of multi-culturalism.

Lancashire Police said officers wanted to thank the majority of protesters for a "relatively peaceful" operation.

Some fireworks were reportedly thrown at officers, who contained a group of youths linked to the counter-protest.

Police said that demonstration attracted about 500 people.

Police assault

The 12 arrests made during the day included a 48-year-old man, from Blackburn, who was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

Others were arrested on suspicion of offences including breach of the peace, affray, being drunk and disorderly and using threatening words or behaviour.

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Media captionAbout 2,000 English Defence League supporters march through Blackburn

Skirmishes broke out among supporters during the EDL rally, despite an appeal for a peaceful event from the organisers.

One man was punched to the floor, while coins and a pint glass were thrown.

EDL spokesman Tony Curtis blamed the fracas on a more extreme splinter group.

"Once we got rid of the troublemakers it got better. It was a good demonstration," he said.

A small group of EDL supporters also broke away from the main demonstration area and were quickly brought under control by police, the force said.

No 'signficant disorder'

Ch Supt Bob Eastwood, who earlier described policing the demonstrations as Lancashire Police's biggest ever operation, said there had been no "significant disorder".

"The events have passed mostly without incident and I would like to thank the local community for their help and tolerance during the events and the lead up to them," he said.

"The aim of the policing operation was to allow for peaceful protests which we have demonstrated is possible through careful planning and successful communication at all levels.

The EDL demonstration finished at about 1415 BST, while Blackburn and Darwen Unite Against Racism (BADUAR) ended their protest at Sudell Cross at 1500 GMT.

Hundreds of police, along with mounted officers and steel barriers, kept the two sides apart in areas away from the general public.

Some roads were closed during the event and a number of smaller traders in the town centre remained closed on Saturday.

The force had restricted numbers to 3,000 from each side for the "safety of the community".

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