London: British police arrested 55 people and seized blades at a Sikh temple on Sunday, following a demonstration at the holy site believed to be protesting a mixed marriage.
Armed officers were deployed to the Gurdwara Temple in Leamington Spa, central England, at around 06:45 (05:45 GMT) after a group of men entered the building.
A total of 55 people were arrested for aggravated trespass in what police chief David Gardner described as “an escalation of a local dispute”.
“A significant number of bladed weapons were seized from the scene,” he added, stating no-one was injured in the incident.
A representative from the Gurdwara Temple was not immediately available to comment on the arrests.
Jatinder Singh Birdi, a former treasurer at the temple, told the BBC a marriage between a Sikh and a non-Sikh had been scheduled to be performed.
One eyewitness, Perry Phillips, confirmed the dispute was over a “mixed marriage ceremony”.
“I could see at the entrance to the Gurdwara a lot of people were outside but it was peaceful, there was no shouting or anything.
“It seemed like a peaceful protest,” he told the Press Association, adding: “There’s a big Sikh community in Leamington Spa and a lot of people were turning up.”
The Sikh 2 Inspire group said those arrested were carrying a kirpan, a ceremonial Sikh dagger, and criticised the response to the Gurdwara Temple incident.
“The media and police have victimised the Sikh appearance and defamed the Sikh community in the UK,” the group said on Facebook, calling on their supporters to take their kirpan to their local police station and explain its significance to officers.
There are more than 420 000 Sikhs in England and Wales, according to 2011 census data, accounting for 0.8% of the population.
Christians make up the largest religious group, accounting for 59.3% of the population, followed by Muslims (4.8%) and Hindus (1.5%).
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