POLICE chiefs have hailed the response of the community in Rotherham, after the far-right English Defence League (EDL) held a rally in the town weeks after it was rocked by details of gangs of Asian men grooming under-age white girls for sex.
An estimated 300 EDL members took part in the demonstration on Saturday, marching to the town hall where a number of public speeches were held.
There were fears the rally could inflame tensions in the town still reeling from the reports of widespread child sex exploitation, with South Yorkshire Police putting 800 extra officers on duty on Saturday.
But the march – and a counter-demonstration by supporters of Unite Against Fascism – passed off peacefully with just three arrests made.
Andy Holt, assistant chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, said: “I’m pleased the demonstrations passed without significant disruption and that the residents of Rotherham were able to go about their usual business as much as possible.
“I’d like to thank the organisers from both groups, local businesses, residents and the wider community for their co-operation.”
An investigation last month claimed a confidential 2010 report by the Police Intelligence Bureau detailed “a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females, particularly in Rotherham and Sheffield”, with officers reluctant to tackle the issue due to fear of cultural sensitivities.
Senior officers at the South Yorkshire force have since said they are “frustrated” by reports police and council officers turned a “blind-eye” to the problem and branded the claims “inaccurate”.