Four men have been arrested as an English Defence League march kicked off in Rotherham to protest recent shocking revelations about child sexual exploitation in the town.
Three men were held on suspicion of going equipped to commit crime shortly before hundreds of supporters of the EDL were expected to march through the South Yorkshire town.
Police were expecting an influx of more than 1,000 people into Rotherham. As well as the EDL march, United Against Fascism members staged a smaller counter protest.
— Heidi Tomlinson (@HeidiLTomlinson) September 13, 2014
Rotherham high street is closed due to EDL protests. Metal barriers everywhere. pic.twitter.com/EYSW1GjFsY— Alex Charles Evans (@Alex_C_Evans) September 13, 2014
The three men arrested in Wickersley were a 41-year-old from Newark, a 20-year-old from Cambridge and a 28-year-old from Nottingham.
Separately, a fourth man, aged 19 and from Rotherham, was arrested in relation to the protest on suspicion of a public order offence.
At 12.45pm, there were around 200 people in the town centre, a number police said they expected that number to grow.
Scenes from EDL rally in Rotherham pic.twitter.com/Tn11GAEMt0— Claire Lewis (@newsgirl25) September 13, 2014
Later, officers dealt with a small group of protesters who were "failing to comply with direction".
At one point police were "confronted with missiles and barriers", South Yorkshire Police said.
At around 3pm, the EDL supporters began to disperse and later the force said most demonstrators had left Main Street in the town, with no major incidents to report.
EDL Supporters in Rotherham demanding the Burka is banned pic.twitter.com/7dzhmSh013— Lord Skip VC (@LordSkipVC) September 13, 2014
The protests were held after a damning report released last month which detailed how 1,400 children were sexually exploited over a 16-year period.
The inquiry said that although the majority of perpetrators were described as "Asian" by victims, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how to tackle the issue and some staff were nervous about identifying the abusers' ethnic origins "for fear of being thought racist".
Ahead of today's protests, police commander for Rotherham, Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, said: "People in Rotherham and beyond are understandably shocked by the revelations of recent weeks and want to express their concern and anger about what happened.
"There are victims of child sexual exploitation who were let down by us in the past - they did not receive the necessary protection and support they should be able to expect and we fully acknowledge our previous failings.
"The force is committed to tackling CSE and has taken steps to address this.
"We have requested an independent investigation into our handling of CSE and the Chief Constable is in ongoing dialogue with the Independent Police Complaints Commission to ensure any individuals and organisations found to be at fault are held to account.
"We respect an individual's democratic right to protest and additional officers will be on duty to ensure a peaceful and safe protest for all. However, if people are attending with the intention of causing or participate in disorder, they will be identified and dealt with."