RIVAL demonstrations took place in Darlington town centre on Saturday (April 13) involving For Britain and an anti-racism group.

The events were held at separate parts of the town centre, with several supporters of For Britain, and about 100 members of the anti-racism group.

The Northern Echo: ATTENDANCE: Members of Darlington For Peace were joined by other anti-racism groupsATTENDANCE: Members of Darlington For Peace were joined by other anti-racism groups

In front of onlookers and campaigners from Darlington For Peace, Matthew Snedker said: "I've lived in this town, and I wanted to bring my family up here.

"A few years ago, I heard about some terrible incidents of hate speech, attacking people, just because their skin colour is different to mine.

"We have a very simple message - it's to remove the suscipion and fear of people who are different from you. The truth comes out that we have more in common, that divides us.

"We're human beings, we're one species, we have the same, needs, wants and desires and it is those who seek to divide, that we stand united against."

Darlington For Peace claimed that For Britain's leader Anne Marie Waters had previously referred to Islam as "evil."

In its political manifesto, For Britain admits it believes Islamic culture is "incompatible with British culture," whilst Ms Waters recently made a pledge to ban the burqa.

A few hundred yards from the anti-racism group, several members from For Britain were seen handing out leaflets which referred to its campaign to 'Stand up for British culture.' 

At their campaign Anne Marie Waters accused Darlington For Peace of 'shutting-down' its protest in the town centre.

She said: "We have to go out there and speak to people in the street because that's the only option we have left.

"The other campaign wants to shut us down, we are offering a real alternative and people will agree with what we're saying, if they hear what we have to say.

"I ask people - why, what are you afraid of. Speak to me, let's debate, let's debate in public - you put your case to the people, I will put mine."

Ms Walters, who previously tried to become leader of UKIP but was unsuccessful, claimed that members of Islam "should talk about their problems within religion with honesty."

The Northern Echo: Jenny Chapman MP for Darlington was in the town centre at the timeJenny Chapman MP for Darlington was in the town centre at the time

However, Labour MP for Darlington, Jenny Chapman said a spread of hate-filled message across her constituency "can't be tolerated."

She said: "I think that as much as it has brought a bit of life to the town centre, I think it's not the sort of thing that we want to have to do, and it's a real shame that the Far Right is starting to rear its ugly head in the UK.

"People from the anti-racism group wanted to show their support and solidarity for their communities and I respect that and I wanted to stand alongside them.

"My message is that these things are sadly necessary at the moment, I really regret that its come to office.

"The sad truth is that there are some hate filled individuals that chose to come to Darlington today to spread their nasty hate-filled message around our town, and that can't be tolerated."

Mr Snedker of Darlington For Peace added: "In today’s populist political climate, nationality and religion have become weaponised by people seeking power.

"The result is that it is now too easy to spread suspicion and fear.”

Durham Police dispatched extra patrols in the Blackwellgate and High Row areas of the town which remained in place throughout the day.