More than 100 police officers line streets of village as EDL protest over Muslim centre

ON THE MARCH: EDL members in Shotton
ON THE MARCH: EDL members in Shotton

POLICE say they are are pleased a demonstration by a far-right group over the opening of a Muslim centre in a village has passed off without incident.

Around 200 members of the North East’s English Defence League (EDL) met at Shotton Colliery, in East Durham, for a protest march through the village against the opening of the Muslim Education Centre, in Front Street.

At the same time, around 30 members of the United Against Facism (UAF) group held a protest at the other end of the village.

The potential for a clash between the two groups saw over 100 police officers from Durham Constabulary, Cleveland Police and Northumbria Police line the streets of the usually quiet village to prevent any trouble flaring.

But speaking minutes after the march, Inspector Dave Coxon, from Peterlee Police, said the event, despite being noisy with chants from the EDL supporters, had gone off peacefully.

He said: “There have been no arrests in relation to the protest and we are pleased with the way things have gone according to plan and as we’d hoped.

“It’s been a little bit noisier than what the people in Shotton will be used to on a Saturday afternoon but the protest was fairly peaceful.”

Police officers arrived at Shotton in waves from around 9am on Saturday, ahead of EDL supporters meeting at the Shotton Comrades Club, in Back Potto Street, from 11am.

More officers started to arrive as the morning went on.

At around 1.30pm the EDL members left the club and marched through the village chanting songs and waving flags, while some had their faces painted and others wore masks.

The march ended in Front Street on a grassed area where they were fenced in with metal gates and a cordon of police officers.

The opposition UAF group, who were the quieter of the two groups, could be seen about 200ft away, also with a police presence.

The protest started to disband around 3pm, and Insp Coxon said although many officers were let off duty, a reduced police presence remained in the village into the evening.

Durham County Council approved plans by local businessman Kaiser Choudry to turn the former Melrose Arms pub, in Shotton’s Front Street, into a Muslim education centre last year. A similar protest was held then as well.