Man claims he was protecting pub and customers in Rotherham protest march clash

A MAN accused of violence on Wellgate after a right-wing march this week claimed he was just trying to protect a pub and its customers.

Dennis Farrell (31), of Halifax, is one of seven men on trial for the fracas on September 5 last year.

Dozens of people clashed outside the William Fry pub after counter-protesters to a Britain First march dispersed.

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Police rushed to the scene in vans and on horseback shortly after trouble started, at around 4.05pm.

By 4.20pm they had separated the groups, escorting one down Wellgate towards Rotherham train station.

On Wednesday, jurors at Sheffield Crown Court saw CCTV and mobile phone footage of the incident, in which punches and missiles were thrown.

Farrell said he had taken no part in either protest that day — although he had attended English Defence League marches before — and met friends at the Bridge Inn who were planning to go and protest.

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He said he later went towards the William Fry, which he had heard was admitting out-of-town visitors on the day.

Farrell told jurors that Asian men armed with wooden planks had advanced on the pub as he and others smoked outside.

Footage showed him gesturing to other drinkers and the approaching men, before receiving two punches to the head.

He and others then chased a group of missile-throwing men up an alley before returning to the pub, he said.

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A man in black, identified by police as Asif Zaman (47) of Wellgate Mount, charged Farrell with an object before running off shortly before police arrived.

Farrell claimed in court that the object had "definitely" been serrated kitchen knife.

Mr Jeremy Lindsay, defending Farrell, asked why he had beckoned to people around him as the men first approached.

He answered: "To get their attention. There was a lot of noise at the top of the road, screaming and shouting, but I couldn't quite see where.

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"I walked into the road to get a better look and I saw it was a group of Asians, 20 to 40 of them, with pieces of wood in their hands.

"There was also a dog coming towards us, a black Staffordshire terrier I think and later there was a sandy-coloured Alsatian. They were both unmuzzled."

Farrell was shown in CCTV spreading his arms to the group as he dodged incoming missiles, a gesture he said meant: “What have we done? Why are you coming forwards at us?”

He told Mr Lindsay it had been better to stay at the scene rather than leave because “if we backed off the chance of them chasing us down the street and attacking us was high” and the pub could be attacked, with children inside.

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Footage showed Farrell beckon to men in the pub doorway at one point, which he said was an attempt to have other men come out and the door closed.

Farrell denied putting up his fists, throwing or picking up a missile at any time during the fight and any suggestion that he was “looking for trouble that day?"

Mr Paul O'Shea, prosecuting, asked: “The gestures you made [towards drinkers] were not to encourage people to come out of the pub and cause trouble?”

Farrell replied: “No.”

He also denied chasing the alleged missile-throwers was “threatening”.

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Three Rotherham men — Daniel Lee Luty, of Redshank Road, Henry Mark Fisher, of Rockingham Road, and John Sheridan, of Henley Way — all deny violent disorder, along with Farrell, David Woodward, of Sowerby Bridge, Reece McLaren, of Huddersfield, and Andrew Fox, of Halifax.

The trial continues.

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