55 held after armed men occupy Sikh temple
Armed police surrounded a Sikh temple yesterday after scores of men, some carrying swords, stormed the building, reportedly in an attempt to disrupt an interfaith wedding.
Fifty-five people were arrested for aggravated trespass following an eight-hour siege at the Gurdwara Sahib in Leamington Spa, which has a history of tensions over mixed marriages.
A group calling itself Sikh Youth Birmingham admitted organising the raid, which it said was a peaceful protest to "uphold the sanctity" of the traditional marriage ceremony.
A Sikh bride was understood to have been scheduled to marry a Hindu groom there later in the day.
The group in the temple posted a video online of men clad in black with orange bandanas, chanting traditional Sikh verses, as well as a video showing an encounter with two armed policemen trying to talk to them.
One of the men was waving a placard which stated "Stop violating Sikh principles for money".
Police described the incident, which lasted from 6.45am to 2pm, as a "culmination" of "ongoing issues".
In July, protesters had tried to disrupt another mixed marriage at the temple.
Richard Barns, a witness, said he had earlier seen 10 members of the group standing at the door to the building with their arms folded. "It was quite intimidating," he said.
"It looked like they were securing the door."
Officers said a "significant number of bladed weapons", many of them ceremonial kirpans, were later recovered from the scene.
Jatinder Singh Birdi, a former treasurer at the temple, said: "There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages taking place in the gurdwara.
"The general consensus is people are respectful of mixed marriages if the traditions are respected."
The Sikh Council has argued that the marriage ceremony should be reserved only for Sikhs, but it has also called for a halt to protests at mixed weddings. (© Daily Telegraph, London)