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Anti-Muslim protest against Islamic centre plans for former pub

Local residents and members of the English Defence League pictured protesting in Shotton Colliery across the road from the former Melrose Arms public house.

Local residents and members of the English Defence League pictured protesting in Shotton Colliery across the road from the former Melrose Arms public house.

AN ANTI-Muslim protest passed off peacefully at the weekend.

Members of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) held a demonstration in Shotton Colliery in protest at Durham County Council’s approval of local businessman Kaiser Choudry’s plans to turn the former Melrose Arms pub, in the village’s Front Street, into a Muslim education centre.

Around 200 demonstrators marched from the village’s Comrade’s club to the pub, gathering on a grassed area opposite.

The protestors shouted slogans and waved placards at passing cars.

There were scuffles when a woman wearing a niqab – a Muslim veil – appeared to throw what eye witnesses described as a bag containing dog excrement at the crowd.

The woman was approached by protestors but quickly ushered away.

Police have since said the bag contained mud.

Fireworks were let off during the protest and at least one bottle was thrown at police but no-one was hurt.

Anti-racism group Unite Against Fascism had been expected to stage a counter-demonstration but there was no sign of any opposition protest.

Mr Choudry’s nephew, Imran Nadeem, 38, who works in the village’s Milco Store, said the family would be leaving the village while the demo was under way.

He said: “We are very scared. There has been a Muslim presence in Shotton for at least the last 23 years. There are about five or six families, and we have been a very peaceful community.

“We will be leaving the area for our safety and we are worried about our business.” Two men were arrested for breach of bail conditions during the demonstration.

A 32-year-old man from Gorebridge in Midlothian, and a 39-year-old from Edinburgh, both Scotland, were released on bail with conditions after they were questioned by police.

Superintendent Helen McMillan lead the police operation: “We can confirm that two men have been arrested for breach of bail conditions following a protest in Shotton Colliery this afternoon,” she said.

“Although Durham Constabulary respects the rights of people to take part in peaceful protest we will ensure that law and order is maintained at all times.

“We had effective resources in place to ensure the event proceeded peacefully for the safety of everyone: participants, bystanders, local businesses and local residents.”

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