There were 31 arrests as members of the far-right English Defence League staged a demonstration in Rochdale.

Around 500 members of the group gathered at the town’s war memorial under the watchful eye of police.

The demo attracted a counter-protest by around 150 people from Unite Against Fascism.

The two sides were kept around 100 feet apart, on opposing sides of the Memorial, and separated by metal fencing.

EDL gatherings have previously caused flashpoints of trouble at similar events elsewhere in the country.

On several occasions during today’s event demonstrators surged towards the police lines but never managed to break through.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had mobilised scores of officers, some in riot gear, as well as mounted and dog units.

After around two and half hours of angry chanting and shouting, both sides were escorted out of the area in small groups.

Councillor Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, said: “The police operation has been a complete success, the demonstrations have taken place with a minimum of disruption to our town.

”Rochdale’s diverse communities are to be commended for their cooperation, tolerance and restraint through what has been a challenging time.

”It has been a hard day for town centre businesses and I understand many have tried and succeeded in operating as normally as possible.

”We will continue to work closely with our partners in the police and within our communities to reassure people well after the protest and into the future that Rochdale is a town of harmony.”

GMP said it does not have the power to ban protests that consist of a static assembly of people.

But it is understood they had intelligence alerting them to today’s demonstration some time ago and the policing operation was planned well in advance.

GMP said it made 31 arrests during the operation, on suspicion of offences including drunk and disorderly behaviour and public order offences.

Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said: “We had intensively planned for the event and delivered a robust policing operation to ensure public safety.

”Our police operation does not finish once the demonstrators leave town. There will be an extensive policing operation into the night and in the days afterwards.

”I am proud to be the Divisional Commander of a town with such a wealth of diverse communities with a strong sense of pride and I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the planning of the event for the help and support they have given us.”