UK: Police break up inter-community confrontations in Leicester
Local leaders in Leicester have called for calm after police were deployed onto the streets of the English city following weekend confrontations between crowds of young men primarily from Hindu and Muslim communities.
The latest incident broke out on Saturday and into Sunday, with police responding to hold back crowds that flared up after "an unplanned protest", the BBC reported. It was unclear what sparked the protest.
Police said that most of those involved were in their late teens and early 20s. In a statement on Monday, Leicestershire Police said they had put in place a temporary cordon "to minimise harm and disturbance to communities".
Fifteen people were arrested on Sunday and remain in police custody, according to the statement.
On Saturday, at least two arrests were made including one on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and another on suspicion of possession of a bladed article.
"The impact this disorder is having on our local communities is not acceptable. We will not tolerate violence, disorder or intimidation in Leicester and we continue to call for calm and dialogue. Our police operations and investigations continue with rigour and at scale," police said.
A woman who witnessed the disturbances said there were people wearing balaclavas and other face coverings, and with hoods pulled up, the BBC reported.
She told the news agency they were "just everywhere, it was like crowds walking away from a football match".
"There were police blocking the road; officers literally stood shoulder to shoulder," she said.
The weekend's incident was the latest in a series of street disturbances in the area, including one that was reported on 28 August, after India defeated Pakistan in a cricket tournament in Dubai.
Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in the UK, with people who identify as British Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, making up more than a quarter of the total population of 329,000, according to figures from the 2011 UK census.
'We need calm'
Speaking to the BBC, Suleman Nagdi, of the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations said: "What we have seen on the streets is very alarming.
"We need calm. The disorder has to stop and it has to stop now. There are some very dissatisfied young men who have been causing havoc.
'It has to stop now. There are some... young men who have been causing havoc'
- Suleman Nagdi, Federation of Muslim Organisations
"We need to get the message out that this must end and try to do this through parents and grandparents talking to their sons."
Sanjiv Patel, who represents Hindu and Jain temples across Leicester, told the BBC that he was deeply saddened and shocked by Saturday night's disorder.
He said: "We have lived in harmony in the city for many decades, but over the past few weeks it is clear there are things that need to be discussed around the table to get out what people are unhappy about.
"Resorting to violence is not the way to deal with this. We are horrified and deplore what was going on [yesterday] and across the last two weeks.
"Across the Hindu and Jain community and with our Muslim brothers and sisters and leaders we are consistently saying 'calm minds, calm heads'."
In a statement on Sunday, Mend, a Muslim community advocacy organisation, blamed the latest disturbances on Hindutva activists, referring to the Hindu nationalist ideology promoted by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been accused of stoking violence and hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities.
Mend said: "The vast majority of Leicester’s Hindu and Muslim communities are law abiding and have longstanding good relations across communities.
"We condemn all violence and provocation. We call for an open and broad based dialogue in our communities to ensure these events are never repeated."
Leicester city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "I don't think anyone saw the confrontation as a likely outcome, and police had been given reassurance things were calming down a lot.
"Things got very nasty indeed last night, and I am very worried on behalf of the people who were caught up in it, and I was impressed by the way police responded to it. It can't have been an easy task.
"It's very worrying for people in the areas where this has happened."
The weekend's disturbances came after Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, last week wrote to police to raise concerns that fake social media accounts were being used to incite hatred in the city.
Webbe wrote: "There are reports of incitement to hate being targeted at those of Muslim or Hindu faith, which is being shared on social media to cause fear, intimidation and disunity,"
She said "perpetrators spreading misinformation on social media" were preying on unease in the city.