The police on Monday (September 12) said they had “contained” the situation at a West Midlands gurdwara after an eight-hour stand-off with a gang of sword-wielding men who opposed a mixed faith marriage.
Warwickshire Police said 54 accused were being given bail until next month, while a 30-year-old man remains in custody as investigations continue over weapons used during the incident.
The force made 55 arrests on charges of “aggravated trespass” after clashes involving armed officers at Gurdwara Sahib in the town of Leamington Spa.
They were responding to reports of a gang of men carrying “bladed weapons” disrupting the wedding ceremony.
“Officers responded to an initial report of a group of masked men, initially thought to be around 20 in number, forcing their way into the gurdwara.
“These were reported to be carrying a range of bladed items, some of which were initially described as not being for ceremonial use. Officers assessed the situation and responded accordingly,” police said on Monday.
“Having contained the situation, it became apparent there were 55 masked men involved, all of whom were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.
“Blades seized so far have been ceremonial. Another non-ceremonial weapon was seized. This is an ongoing investigation and we will be investigating the initial report that other weapons were involved.”
Kirpans or short swords are legally allowed to be worn by Sikhs in the UK as a symbol of their faith.
Protesters from Sikh 2 Inspire and Sikh Youth UK were demonstrating in what they describe as a “peaceful protest” against an inter-faith Anand Karaj or Sikh matrimonial ceremony taking place at the gurdwara.
The group believes that the Gurdwara Sahib Leamington Spa on Tachbrook Drive is a “rogue” group, which decided to break an agreement made last year between over 300 Sikh representatives at a meeting led by the Sikh Council UK to not hold an Anand Karaj in inter-faith cases.
Sikh Youth UK said: “Local Sikh youth attended the early morning prayers at the gurdwara and began a sit-down peaceful protest by reciting prayers.”
“There was no violence, so it does not make sense why kirpans were confiscated and have to remain in police custody. We feel that the police should not be holding onto the kirpans.”
“We are not sure where the media has picked up their distorted narrative which damages the reputation of the Sikhs,” added Gurmail Singh of Sikh Council UK.
Superintendent David Gardner of Warwickshire Police said: “We would like to reassure people that this was a contained incident we believe was an escalation of a local dispute.
“A significant number of bladed weapons were seized from the scene. As a result of reports that the men were in possession of these weapons. we deployed armed officers as a precaution. Nobody was injured in the incident.
“Over the coming days, we will be working with the local Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues that have culminated in Monday’s events. We would like to thank local people for their patience while we deal with this incident.”