The UK police are calling for calm after clashes between fans following an India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match at the end of last month spilled over into serious disorder on Saturday and the early hours of Sunday in the city of Leicester in eastern England.
Reports circulating on social media claimed the spark this weekend was a protest march, with footage showing police attempting to hold back two sets of crowds as objects such as glass bottles were thrown, and some people could be seen carrying sticks and batons.
“We have had numerous reports of an outbreak of disorder in parts of the east Leicester area of the city, Leicestershire Police temporary chief constable Rob Nixon said in a Twitter video. We have got officers there, we are taking control of the situation, there are additional officers en route and dispersal powers, stop search powers, have been authorised. Please do not get involved. We are calling for calm,” he said.
The local police force said that its officers attended in large numbers as dispersal and stop and search powers were authorised in an effort at restoring calm to the area. A large number of people were searched and two men remain in custody one on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and another on suspicion of possession of a bladed article.
“Several incidents of violence and damage have been reported to the police and are being investigated. We are aware of a video circulating showing a man pulling down a flag outside a religious building on Melton Road, Leicester. This appears to have taken place while police officers were dealing with public disorder in the area. The incident will be investigated,” Leicestershire Police said in a statement.
“We are continuing to call for dialogue and calm with support from local community leaders. We will not tolerate violence or disorder in our city. A significant police operation will remain in the area in the coming days,” the police said. Police had imposed similar dispersal orders earlier this month after a few days of unrest believed to involve local Hindu and Muslim groups in the wake of India versus Pakistan match in Dubai on August 28.
On Friday, Chief Constable Nixon said there had been a total of 27 arrests as part of the policing operation in the east Leicester area and even issued a message of thanks to the community for continuing to work together to call for calm in the area.
“I don’t think anyone saw the confrontation (on Saturday) as a likely outcome and police had been given reassurance things were calming down a lot, said Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester city mayor.
“It’s mostly young men in their late teens and early 20s and I have heard suggestions people have come in (to the city) from outside looking for an opportunity to have a set to. It’s very worrying for people in the areas where this has happened,” he said, as he appealed for calm.
Sanjiv Patel, who represents Hindu and Jain temples across Leicester, told the BBC that all groups have lived in harmony in the city over the years.
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, he said. “Across the Hindu and Jain community and with our Muslim brothers and sisters and leaders we are consistently saying ‘calm minds, calm heads’,” he said.
Leicester East member of Parliament Claudia Webbe described Leicester as one of the most diverse cities in the UK and urged that our unity is our strength.