Two people were arrested when the English Defence League were met with an army of protesters in Sheffield city centre.
The far-right group were outnumbered by campaigners from One Sheffield Many Cultures, Unite Against Fascism and residents as they arrived at Barker’s Pool to lay a wreath for murdered soldier Drummer Lee Rigby.
Police were out in force in the city centre on Saturday to keep both parties separate.
On one side, anti-EDL campaigners waved banners and chanted, while a smaller crowd of EDL supporters, some clutching flowers, stood on Division Street.
Two people were arrested for public order offences in what South Yorkshire Police described as a ‘challenging’ operation.
Commander Chief Superintendent David Hartley said: “It was disappointing reasoned attempts to allow both groups to achieve their objectives were initially resisted, but I’m pleased the event passed without significant issue or disorder.
“I was proud of the officers policing the event who showed a high degree of tolerance and understanding.”
Police had to start negotiations between the opposing sides when members of the Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster divisions of the EDL had their access to the memorial blocked.
Impassioned speeches promoting messages of tolerance were delivered from the steps of City Hall.
Father Shaun Smith, chairman of One Sheffield Many Cultures, said: “We have organised this gathering so that any move by the EDL is counter-balanced in public by a body of opinion which wants to unite people.”
A 26-year-old man from Westfield, who claimed not to be part of the EDL, said: “We wanted to pay our respects and have a moment’s silence but we are being branded scum.”
Anti-EDL protester Tim Plant, 61, of south-west Sheffield, said: “One of the issues for me is that the people coming out here today are, to an extent, victims of what has happened to working class people in this country over the last few years.
“They’re jobless and have awful prospects and they are responding violently to what they see as a threat.
“It’s important that we are here to represent the opposite view – it’s not immigrants or people from different ethnic backgrounds or religions who are our enemies.”
MPs unite to speak out against EDL
Politicians waded into the debate over the English Defence League’s presence in South Yorkshire.
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: “The appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby has united people across communities in shock and condemnation.
“But the EDL are exploiting the tragedy to promote hatred and division. They create tension and violence. They’re not welcome in Sheffield. We should stand united, as Muslim and Christian leaders in the city have, to oppose all extremism.”
A planned EDL ceremony took place in Doncaster on Saturday. MPs Ed Miliband, Rosie Winterton and Caroline Flint said in a joint statement: “The EDL will not succeed in spreading their hatred, because the people of Doncaster are united across different faiths and backgrounds in the values of tolerance and decency.”