Protesters threw smoke canisters and bottles as they clashed with police officers on Sunday during a demonstration by supporters of the English Defence League (EDL).
The event was organised by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson for a movement called UK Against Hate and it drew a counter-demonstration.
A few members of the crowd brandished a pig’s head – a taunt to Muslims who do not eat pork – and took turns taking bites out of it.
The group’s presence led to angry clashes with demonstrators and Anti-Facist groups as Greater Manchester Police officers in riot gear tried to keep the two sides apart.
Thousands gathered in the city almost three weeks since suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people and injured more than 200 at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said 400 officers were deployed to police the protest and officers had made eight arrests for public order offences.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham criticised the protesters, saying police “deserve better” as the force handles one of its largest ever investigations into the terrorist atrocity.
Police said eight protesters were arrested for public order offences during the fray.
Mr Burnham tweeted: “@gmpolice are stretched to limit & in middle of on-going investigation. These EDL-types who came today need to have a look at themselves.
“To those saying they weren’t EDL – I honestly don’t care. They still need to take a long, hard look at themselves. @gmpolice deserve better.
“I care about our Police being unnecessarily distracted when they are worn out & still working hard to investigate a major incident.”
GMP Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said many officers who had already worked long hours had to operate in “extremely challenging circumstances”.
“This has been an incredibly challenging day with thousands of people attending Manchester City Centre for the protest,” he said.
“I understand that these events are very emotive and that tensions run high when there are polarised views and counter-protests.
“Our city has been through a lot over the last few weeks and I know there were people opposed to the event taking place.
“There have been eight arrests for public order offences, which is not uncommon for a demonstration of this size.
“It was pleasing to see that this protest did not stop the people of Manchester from going about their normal Sunday activities.”
Mr Robinson tweeted: “Some turn out today, proud.”
He also said: “I cant believe the love I was shown today, I was pretty overwhelmed. The most humbling experience of my life.”