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Monday, 31 January 2011

Relief as gathering of English Defence League passes peacefully (UK)

The chairman of Derby's Pakistani Community said he was relieved that an English Defence League march in the city on Saturday was trouble-free.

But he said their presence "angered" him and he believed they had targeted the city because of a recent court case which saw eight Asian men and one white man jailed for targeting young white girls for sex.

About 50 members of the EDL gathered in Derby Market Place on Saturday afternoon before marching up St Peter's Street and East Street and gathering in the White Horse pub, in the Morledge.

No arrests were made and police said the protest was "peaceful".

Mr Lal said: "I think the main reason the EDL targeted Derby was Operation Retriever. We know that they highlighted the case on their website and online forums.

"And, of course, a number of EDL members turned up at Nottingham Crown Court for the sentencing of the men."

Operation Retriever was a covert police investigation to catch men using drink and drugs to lure vulnerable teenage girls. Ringleaders Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, of Northumberland Street, Normanton, and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, of Briar Lea Close, Sinfin, were jailed indefinitely.

Derbyshire police has never said the case was in any way racially motivated.

On Saturday, EDL members from Leicester and the West Midlands were among the 50 who protested in the city.

Divisional Commander Andy Hough, of Derbyshire police, said: "We knew there was going to be something low key. We know there are a number of EDL members in Derby and that some of them associate themselves with Derby County, who did not have a match.

"We expected a few of them to meet for a drink and informal discussion but we did not think as many would come to the city as did."

Mr Lal said: "Derby enjoys excellent community relationships and Pakistani and Muslim people are all proud to call themselves Derbeians.

"It angers me when an organisation like the EDL comes into Derby to try to stir up animosity."

An EDL member, who did not give his name, said: "We are always portrayed as thugs but we came here for a peaceful protest and there have been no arrests. We are not racists."

This is Derbyshire