Berwick Chamber of Trade’s chairman has led calls for a ban on future protest marches through the town by far-right groups.
John Haswell was speaking after the Ban the Burka demonstration by the Scottish Defence League and North East Infidels on Saturday.
“They shouldn’t be allowed back,” he said. “It doesn’t do our reputation any good at all. We’re a seaside tourist town and this is the last sort of thing we want our visitors to see.”
A survey he carried out before the event found 155 shops and businesses did not want the protest march coming through town.
Several businesses including Pier Red on Castlegate and The Leaping Salmon on Golden Square stayed closed, sacrificing profits to avoid the risk of potential trouble.
Terri Conway, duty manager at The Leaping Salmon, said: “It was just the chance of something happening – we closed last year when the SDL came to march, and we would close again if they came next year.
“Obviously being closed on a Saturday, when the weather was eventually so nice, hit us very hard.”
Around 40 right-wing protesters marched down Castlegate, along Walkergate to The Parade and back via Cowport to the railway station.
A 100-strong counter-demonstration organised by Berwick Trades Union Council took place on Marygate at the same time.
Phil Thompson, secretary of Berwick TUC, said: “It is vital that we continue to organise, to unite, to make sure they are not allowed to spread their racist and Islamophobic hatred and violence in our community.”
One 39-year-old man, from within the SDL march, was arrested for disorderly conduct and summonsed to appear at court.
Northumberland Police Chief Superintendent Gordon Milward said: “Our aim was to facilitate the marches peacefully and with minimal disruption caused to local people. I think we achieved that, with events on the day passing safely and without any disorder.”
Police received widespread praise for their handling of the event, despite continued concerns about the cost of the policing operation.
Mr Haswell said: “It was extremely well policed. Senior officers had assured me beforehand they would handle it and that turned out to be the case.”
Ch Supt Millward said: “My staff on the ground received considerable positive comment from those who were working in or visiting the town. The people who took part in the marches worked constructively with my officers and I’d like to thank the people of Berwick for their patience and cooperation throughout Saturday.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 10 July 2014
Berwick will be the location of another pair of demonstrations this summer as far-right groups announced intentions to march through the town.
Far-right groups the Scottish Defence League and the North East Infidels plan to travel to Berwick in order to hold a protest on July 5.
At a meeting last Friday Berwick Trades Union Council along with local anti-fascist campaigners discussed the two groups’ planned protest.
A statement was released expressing the council’s “revulsion and deep concern at the prospect of these fascist thugs once again invading our community with their messages of hate and division.
“In February last year Berwick put up a tremendous display of solidarity in opposing the SDL and EDL. The fascists on the other hand chanted racist slogans and caused mayhem in the town centre.”
The statement went on to call for a local response, which will be in the form of a counter demonstration in the same vein as last year.
“We call on all those who supported the anti- fascist demonstration last year to do the same this year but this time to make it even bigger and stronger. Let’s tell these racist thugs they are not welcome in our peaceful and inclusive community. We have an organising meeting on Friday June 20 open to all those groups and individuals in our community who want to show a collective opposition to the fascists.”
The visiting groups are describing their march as a Ban the Burka event, and are planning to wear balaclavas as a sign of protest.
The Berwick United Against Fascism group describe the SDL as a “racist group with an established record of mounting protests which regularly feature racist chanting, placards and Nazi salutes.”
The NEI, meanwhile, are deescribed as a “more openly racist and fascist than the EDL, splitting from it when its leader allowed Jews to join the EDL.”
They are led by Warren Faulkner, who describes himself as “the Islamic terminator and leftist beateruperer.”
There were five SDL arrests during the afternoon, and widespread discontent with the massive cost of policing the demonstrations after traffic through town was stopped.
In a letter to the ‘Advertiser’, resident Michael Stewart complained: “Who is footing the bill for the massive police presence in the town to control this unruly mob? I have a feeling it will be the taxpayer, so that helps to explain why the police precept element of the council tax is rising this year!”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 16 June 2014