A RALLY in Otley has shown that the community 'won't stand for racism'.

That is the conclusion of community group Otley Welcomes which organised the event in the Market Square on Thursday, March 21.

The rally was intended to demonstrate the town's solidarity with those fighting prejudice around the world. Attended by more than 200 people, it also included a two minute vigil to remember all those who were killed in a terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15.

Only hours before, however, stickers promoting white supremacist ideology had had to be removed from several sites around town.

Despite that, Otley Welcomes Chair Victoria Smith declared the rally an 'empowering' success. Posting online afterwards, she said: "Thank you to everyone that came down, there were 250 of us!

"A massive thank you to all our wonderful speakers."

MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) was one of four speakers. He said: "I was honoured to be asked to speak at Otley Welcomes' UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event.

"It was fantastic to be joined by so many local people committed to fighting racism and fascism wherever it presents itself.

"Over the last week alone we have seen the horrific murders in Christchurch, the mosque attacks in the UK and an assault on one of my colleagues, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP - who I share an office with - by a member of the far right while he was out and about in his constituency.

"Fascism is even raising its head in peaceful places like Otley, where stickers from a far right, neo-fascist group have been appearing around town.

"It is crucial that in difficult times such as these communities band together and reject this type of rhetoric. I am pleased and proud that Otley has done just that and local people have been removing the stickers."

Town Mayor Councillor Mary Vicker told those gathered in the Market Square that: "It is our responsibility as individuals and members of our community to look out for each other and tackle racism and discrimination whenever we see it - whether it be institutional or indeed the casual racism that sadly still too often pervades.

"We live in troubled times and more than ever, we need to show how a world in which all can comfortably co-exist is necessary, possible and essential."

Councillor Linda Hoare (Lib Dem, West Chevin), who also attended, said: "The reports of white supremacist stickers appearing around town beforehand were true.

"Our council office helped remove at least two from lampposts, and several others were reported.

"This was an outrageous act and just proves that racism, sadly, pervades all towns and cities - Otley is not immune.

"On a positive note, though, Otley is a warm and welcoming community and this rally only proved that."

The event was supported by many of the town's businesses, churches, community groups and politicians.