Disorder that broke out in Leicester over the weekend between Hindu and Muslim communities escalated as a result of social media disinformation and a distortion of facts, the city’s mayor has said.
Fifteen people were arrested on Monday, after weeks of disturbances between Hindu and Muslim people since an Asia Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan on 28 August.
“I’ve seen quite a selection of the social media stuff which is very, very, very distorting now and some of it just completely lying about what had been happening between different communities,” Peter Soulsby told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
“There’s no obvious local cause for this at all,” Soulsby said, pointing to a distortion of facts on social media and a concerted effort to bring people from as far away as Birmingham to raise tensions in “an otherwise very peaceful city”.
Celebrations that took place following the cricket match in August later became disorderly, a police spokesperson said. “An incident was shared on social media stating that a Muslim was being attacked by Hindus. This was wrong – the victim was in fact Sikh and supported the same team as the people who assaulted him,” the spokesperson said.
For several weeks, the police have tried to counter disinformation as they find it, the spokesperson said, adding: “Certainly, we believe it has attributed to tensions in the community.”
The latest disturbance, described by locals as “unprecedented” in the most densely populated city in the east Midlands, broke out after unplanned protests on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Disinformation appeared as members of the different communities alleged acts against places of worship and people of faith, the mayor said.