A multi-cultural community has been praised for the way it reacted to a racist demonstration. Police have also been applauded for the way in which they dealt with the flash demo outside a Darlington mosque by members of the English Defence League (EDL).
Three people were arrested after about 30 members of the EDL gathered outside the Jamia Mosque on North Lodge Terrace on Saturday at 4.20pm. It is believed they had attempted a similar demonstration in Middlesbrough earlier in the day before moving on to Darlington. The group chanted nationalistic slogans and, according to witnesses, intimidated local residents. However, the group was dispersed by police who arrived in large numbers to control the demonstration and then remained in the area for the rest of the night to prevent any reoccurrence.
Local councillor Eleanor Lister said: "It was obviously very frightening for the community. However, I thought the police handled it brilliantly. The community did the best thing possible by not reacting. I was speaking to some young men in the mosque who were telling them that Islam means peace. Darlington is a peaceful town and we don't want this sort of thing."
One local shop worker said: "They were racists, shouting things like England for the English and go back to your country. These weren't people from Darlington."
Superintendent Paul Unsworth said: "These people (the demonstrators) were acting in a rowdy, abusive and offensive manner and we believe their actions were racially motivated. Officers attended to ensure the crowd dispersed without causing further disruption or disorder."
A 49-year-old man from Redcar was arrested on suspicion of theft and a 40-year-old man from Spennymoor and a 17-year-old from Middlesbrough were arrested on suspicion of causing a public order offence. All three were taken to Darlington police station for questioning.
Last night, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman condemned the demonstration. She said: "This kind of activity is not welcome. I would encourage the police to take the toughest possible line in dealing with people who come to Darlington to cause trouble."
A statement on the North-East EDLs Facebook page posted on Saturday evening read: "Some EDL were walking to a mosque for a flash demo & singing EDL songs, as they got close to the mosque the police issued them with 'section 27' notices & told to leave the area. They are now enjoying the nightlife in Newcastle."
Thanks to NewsHound for the heads-up