By Daniel Leach
NEARLY 50 people have been arrested and 10 injured during political demonstrations in Manchester on Saturday.
Several hundred members of the English Defence League (EDF) were met by around a thousand activists from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in Piccadilly Gardens.
A large police presence marshalled the protesters using horses and dogs and had cordoned off streets around Piccadilly to control the crowds more effectively.
During the five hour stand-off insults and chants were traded as tensions between the two groups increased.
A chorus of God Save the Queen by the EDL was met with jeering from their opponents. Minor scuffles then occurred as UAF demonstrators tried to break through the police line.
At around five o’clock, as police escorted EDL members to public transport, another confrontation was sparked. Black and Asian youths, apparently not part of the original demonstration, goaded the men as they moved past Princess Street.
Riot police formed a line and, as horses moved in, onlookers panicked as they tried to avoid the trouble.
Cafes bolted their doors as running battles between police and youths then ensued amid the back streets branching off Piccadilly.
UAF demonstrator Rashad Raofi, 19, a Psychology student attended the protest after hearing about it on Facebook.
He said: “It’s important people defend multiculturalism. It’s a great asset to the country. If people don’t stand up against them they will grow.”
He added: “The Police have handled it well”.
From midday members of the EDL, who have formed to protest against Islamic extremism, had been congregating on the outskirts of Piccadilly.
As their number increased they moved towards Piccadilly Gardens. Soon after, Police enclosed the EDL in one corner of the square, surrounding the group with a combination of horses, dogs, and riot police.
UAF protesters dominated the rest of the area using a PA system to give speeches and a roving megaphone to direct their supporters.
When two EDL members were spotted wandering outside the group, they were quickly chased out of the square by UAF demonstrators amid cheering.