A PROTEST held by the Stop The Mosque campaign group in Bolton town centre largely passed peacefully and without incident.

About 100 people turned up today at 12.30pm to demonstrate against the approved plans for a new mosque in Grecian Crescent, Great Lever, and about the Labour administration running Bolton Council.

An estimated 150 attended a counter protest, which was arranged after news of the rally emerged about a fortnight ago.

Organiser Bryn Morgan, of Stop The Mosque, said: “It has all been fairly peaceful today.

"We have had a reasonable turnout but I do think that the fact there has been a heavy police presence in the town centre from very early has put people off.

"This is a multi-faceted demonstration— we are demanding the immediate resignation of Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris and we are also highlighting the corruption in the Labour council in Bolton.

"This is not a racist protest, we are not vilifying the Muslim community, they are actually a bit of an unfortunate target because Labour are so busy trying to please the Muslim voters.

“We chose to have the protest here to demonstrate against the council, we didn’t want to go to the mosque because we don’t want the Muslim community to feel threatened."

Labour councillor Liam Irving said: "This is Bolton, not the Bronx — this shouldn’t be happening in our town.

“These are people who have come to purposefully upset other people.

“I think the small number of people who came out on that side just shows how few people there are who actually believe in what they believe in.

“I have to say the police have done an excellent job in managing the protest today, it has been very well organised."

Speaking of the Labour administration, Mr Irving said: "We are absolutely not corrupt, I can honestly say that.

“Everything this Labour council does is for the people of Bolton, we go above and beyond to represent the people of Bolton and we work for their benefit."

Stop The Mosque supporters were stood behind a barriers on the south side of Victoria Square and the opponents – largely from Unite Against Fascism and Bolton and District Trades Council – were positioned behind barriers on the north side with a sizeable No Man's Land created between them stretching from Bolton Town Hall to the war memorial. Many of both sides covered their faces with scarves.

Some shoppers looked on bemused and others stopped to watch for a few minutes but visitors and workers as a whole heeded the authorities' call for 'business as usual'.

Only one arrest was witnessed – when a protester was put into a police van outside Bolton Rail Station where the demonstrators had gathered before walking up Newport Street to the square.

The only potential flashpoint was averted about 45 minutes into the protest as a line of police blocked the way into Victoria Square for a group of about 20 young men, many with scarves around their faces.

The officers shepherded the group back round into Le Mans Crescent and forced them to disperse.

It was over in two minutes but families caught up in the commotion, some with children, were obviously shaken.

David Smith, who came up from Kent to take part, said: "We were hoping for a few more people to turn out but it has been peaceful.

"I have come here because I think there are so many mosques being built in the country and we already have quite a few in this area.

"I do feel passionately about this issue and that is why I travel all over the country to protest."

Amir Patel, a counter-protester from Great Lever, said: "I think we successfully countered what they were trying to do, there were more people on our side.

“We need to fight for people, for the equality of rights, for migrants and for things like the NHS in our country.

“We are very pleased with how many people have come out to support us today."

Police previously clarified they had no power to stop the protest as the European Convention on Human Rights provides the freedom of assembly and association.

Neither GMP nor Bolton Council has a veto and cannot outright ban or place conditions on such static protests — they can only manage and police them.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: "It was ‘business as usual’ today as Bolton Council and Greater Manchester Police worked closely to ensure a small planned protest by the North West Infidels in Bolton town centre was able to take place without causing major disruption.

"A counter-protest by Unite Against Fascism, Bolton and District Trade Council and other groups also took place.

"The council liaised in advance with key community representatives, shopkeepers, businesses and licencees across the town to ensure we reached as many people as possible who could be directly affected by the event.

"Chief Executive Margaret Asquith thanks everyone for their cooperation, and also thanks police and council staff for their efforts today."