MP calls for talks after far-right protest over Muslim centre plan

AN MP has called for more talks to heal divisions in a community after a rowdy protest by far-
right demonstrators on a Leeds estate.

Four arrests were made during the march on the derelict Lingfield pub in Alwoodley, which is set to become a Muslim-run community centre, despite hundreds of objections.

A huge police operation involving over 100 officers swung into action as the English Defence League marched through the Lingfield estate, chanting racist abuse.

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Residents said they didn’t support the EDL – but were not in favour of the centre, on a predominantly white estate.

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said it was “outrageous” that “people think they can tap into natural concern that residents have about this development and use it for their own nasty political ends to promote hatred.”

A resident on the estate is thought to have invited the EDL and Mr Hamilton said he had been “roundly told off”.

He said: “Obviously I am concerned that a minority might take it into their own hands, but the best way of resolving it is to get people round the table to talk and the people who are developing this centre to prove what they say – that there won’t be outside loudspeakers broadcasting the call to prayer, which isn’t going to happen and which would be against the law because of the planning consent.”

He said he had been assured that the facility would be “open to everybody” adding: “It may not assuage some of the people who are really angry and upset.

“What I do know is that it is much better to be open, for people to talk to their neighbours 
and talk to the public in the 

“Whatever people’s concerns, and they are very genuine and legitimate, they need to be resolved locally with local people talking to the promoters and developers of this particular facility and worked out with intermediaries.

“It could be me, it could be ministers of religion who are determined not to see strife and division and the council.

“It is very important we keep the EDL out of this – it is a matter for local people to resolve locally.”

Around 150 EDL supporters, from cities including Coventry and Newcastle, were tightly contained by officers flanked by riot vans.

The police operation involved police horses, dogs as well as a police helicopter. The EDL set off from a nearby pub The Penny Fun, where they had been bussed in from the train station.

The four arrests were for offences including drunk and disorderly behaviour and minor public order.

Confrontation with a counter demonstration by Unite Against Facism, which attracted around 120 people, was averted by dozens more police officers.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said he didn’t support the EDL, but added: “Local people’s needs and wants were ignored.

“There are very few islamic residents here. Why is this needed?”

David Gladman, who attends Moortown Baptist Church, and witnessed Saturday’s march, said: “The majority are saying they want to find peaceful ways of living together – they don’t want confrontation.”