MORE than 30 English Defence League supporters turned out in a Huddersfield tribute to murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
Saturday’s demonstration was part of a nationwide campaign by the group and passed off peacefully in the town.
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Police kept a discreet presence at the event in the Market Place which was also attended by a coalition of anti-racists from across the town.
EDL members had intended spending an hour in nearby Wetherspoon pub, The Cherry Tree, before the 11am ceremony at which bouquets of flowers were placed at Market Cross, but were denied their early-morning beer.
A notice in the window read that due to “unforeseen circumstances” the pub would not open until noon.
One of the EDL supporters was Derek Hemphill, from Meltham, who told the coalition members: “I find your presence offensive.
“We have turned up to show respect to a fallen soldier, it’s not a racist thing.”
Another supporter was Kris Giles, from Kirkheaton, who said he had spent 10 years in the Forces.
He said: “I am here just to show my respect to Lee Rigby. I did all my training at Woolwich, (where Mr Rigby was murdered).
“It’s not a ‘black’ thing today, it’s a respect thing.”
But coalition member David Waight said: “First of all I just want to say that everyone here was horrified at what happened in Woolwich and it is perfectly fine for people to show their respect by laying wreaths.
“But we don’t like the way in which the EDL are trying to whip up anti-Muslim feeling. It’s important for people not to become divided.”
Later, Kirklees Council leader, Mehboob Khan, said Huddersfield was in the fortunate position of having enjoyed largely harmonious community relations for several decades.
He said: “This visit by the EDL is purely opportunistic.”
He added that the aftermath of the terrible fire in Birkby which claimed the lives of eight members of a single family was an “outstanding example of how people from different backgrounds came together and rallied round to help.”
Elsewhere, across the country, small groups of English Defence League supporters met in cities and towns including Sheffield, Cambridge and Colchester.
In London 150 members of the British National party met at Westminster but the protesters were outnumbered by police and anti-fascist demonstrators. There were 58 arrests.
Three people were arrested at an EDL demonstration in Leeds and two in Sheffield.