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55 Arrested After A Sikh Temple In Leamington Spa Was Occupied

A large group of men entered the temple on Sunday morning in what Warwickshire police believe to be part of a local dispute.

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Fifty-five people have been arrested after a Sikh temple in Leamington Spa was occupied on Sunday morning.

Officers were called to the Gurdwara Temple on Tachbrook Drive at 6:47am over what is thought to be an escalation of a local dispute, according to Warwickshire police.

A large group of men said to carrying "bladed items" were occupying the temple until early afternoon, when police tweeted that a number of arrests had been made.

A number of arrests made on suspicion of aggravated trespass following incident at Gurdwara Leamington Temple. More to follow.

Under UK law, orthodox Sikhs are permitted to carry a religious sword known as the Kirpan, worn tucked inside a belt or waistband.

The incident was treated as "aggravated trespass" and police were keen to reassure members of the public it not being treated as a terrorist incident.

They did however warn people in the immediate vicinity of the temple, which has been cordoned off by police, to avoid the area until the dispute is resolved.

Religious leaders at the temple worked with officers to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the occupation.

Superintendent David Gardner confirmed that a number of bladed weapons had been seized, and that armed police had attended the scene as a precaution, but said nobody had been injured in the incident.

"Over the coming days we will be working with local the Sikh community to address some of the ongoing issues that have culminated in today's events," Gardner said.

"We would like to thank local people for their patience while we dealt with this incident."

Video from inside the temple appeared to show peaceful protesters sitting down and chanting.

A marriage between a Sikh and non-Sikh had been scheduled to take place at the temple on Sunday, Jatinder Singh Birdi, the temple's former treasurer, told the BBC.

A Facebook Live video filmed outside the temple on Sunday morning showed tensions between those who supported interfaith marriages and those who opposed it.

A minority of temple users oppose marrying between Sikhs and non-Sikhs, meaning mixed marriage has become a contentious issue in the local community, but, Birdi said, "nothing has happened on this level before".

"There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages in taking place in the gurdwara," he continued.

"The general consensus is people are respectful of mixed marriages if the traditions are respected.

"This is meant to be one of the happiest moments of somebody's life – it shows a lack of respect."

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

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