LATEST: Smoke bomb thrown as rival demonstrations hit Preston

One of the smoke bombs thrown during the demonstration. Picture: Karl Child of www.karlchild.com/blind

One of the smoke bombs thrown during the demonstration. Picture: Karl Child of www.karlchild.com/blind

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There have been chaotic scenes in Preston city centre as two rival groups gathered to protest about immigration.

The North West Infidels, a splinter group of the English Defence League, are holding an anti-refugee demonstration on the Flag Market, while members of the Lancashire Association of Trades Union Councils (LATUC) counter demonstrate.

The far right group, which refused to speak to the Evening Post, brought large numbers of protesters waving flags and banners saying “refugees not welcome” and “support our truckers secure our borders.”

Counter demonstrators earlier told our reporter they are out in force to show ‘Preston is saying no to hatred.’

During the protests eyewitnesses say smoke bombs and firecrackers were thrown.

Photographer Karl Child, of www.karlchild.com/blind, snapped this picture of the commotion in the city centre at around 2pm.

Earlier in the day counter protesters spoke about why they supported the rally. One of the protesters, Pupp Nito said: “We are all students from the University of Central Lancashire. We have come to show our support for refugees. We don’t support fascists or the views these people are trying to spread.”

Mitchell Peeke said: “We are here because we love refugees and we hope they come here.”

Ian Kitching came from Accrington to take part in the counter protest.

He said:”I don’t agree with what they are saying and the only way to have your voice heard is by being here.

“There is too much of it going on lately. We are all human after all and have the right to live and work wherever we want.”

UCLan student Robyn Doughty said: “I’m here because I’m against racism and I want everyone to know it.”

Fellow student Alice Bohannon said: “I’m here because a lot of my friends are from other countries. We meet them because they are exchange students and we become really close to them on our course.

“I’m half British and half Irish. My mum’s an immigrant, she’s Irish. They are saying they want us out and I don’t think that’s okay.”

Lancashire Constabulary and Preston City Council have been working together ahead of the event and there is expected to be a visible police presence.

The North West Infidels are holding a No More Refugees themed demonstration at 2pm.

The group has refused to speak to the Evening Post about their plans, but 270 people have confirmed their attendance on a Facebook event page.

They are meeting at The Bull and Royal pub, on Church Street, and then walking over to start their demonstration.

Starting at 1pm will be the anti-racist/fascist demonstration by LATUC, which is part of the national Trades Union Congress.

Peter Billington, LATUC secretary, said: “We have called a peaceful demonstration to show that the so-called NW Infidels are not welcome in Preston. No-one invited these people into the city.”

Both groups will have a number of speakers.