You are not welcome in our city.
That was the overriding message from residents, community leaders, political parties and union bosses just 24 hours before an “anti-islam” protesters arrive in Newcastle city centre.
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida supporters will be taking to Tyneside’s streets amid claims they are trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Saturday, will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.
A growing counter-demonstration, now expected to attract in excess of 2,000 people, will simultaneously march through the city centre in protest over Pegida.
The counter-demo, organised by Newcastle Unites, is also aiming to attract a string of high profile speakers including George Galloway MP.
Police said they were fully prepared to cope with the extra influx of people into the city centre just hours before Newcastle United kick off their home match against Aston Villa.
Today, opponents to Pegida made one final rallying call.
David Stockdale, councillor for Blakelaw, who will also be speaking at the meeting, said:
“Newcastle is a friendly, tolerant and inclusive city of sanctuary. We thrive on the diversity of our communities which make our city one of the truly great cities of the world.
“We have a proud history of standing up to intolerance and hate and to groups like Pegida who seek to do harm to our Muslim sisters and brothers.
“Pegida paint a brutal misrepresentation of Islam. It’s important to stand up to that and for me as a non-Muslim it’s important to speak out against Pegida’s twisted prejudice.
“The Newcastle Unites counter-demonstration will show Newcastle at its best. Islamophobia targets Muslims but it hurts us all and I’m so proud of how our wonderful city has come together to march in peace and solidarity against Pegida and everything they stand for”.
The Pegida movement started in Germany but has reportedly launched a number of other European off-shoots in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
Jeremy Beecham, former leader of Newcastle City Council, said:
“This city has a deserved reputation for welcoming people and for good relations between the communities which enrich its life.
“It has welcomed the contribution made by people from a variety of cultures across a range of activities, from the NHS to St James’s Park. Pegida is an extreme right wing movement driven by hatred of Muslims, on whom they have focussed their resentment for problems they perceive in Germany.
“Their Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, and it’s difficult to understand why Newcastle has been singled out for their malign attention. I hope the people of this city will unite to reject the message of division which they seek to bring to our streets.”
David Kelly, 33, from Newcastle, will be part of the counter-demo.
He said: “We don’t want these people in our city. They don’t belong here. We are a friendly, tolerant and welcoming place.”
Pegida claim to have chosen Newcastle for their first UK march due to having already established a following in the city.
Chi Onwurah, Newcastle MP, said:
“We are a city of diverse communities and shared values where we both respect and look out for each other. We have a history of facing hard times together and growing stronger.
“People coming from outside to spread a message of division and hatred are not welcome. Pegida is targeting Muslims in our community and we have to stand up and say it is wrong, Islamaphobia is wrong, anti semitism is wrong, all racism is wrong, we can do better than this, we have done better than this when we saw off the National Front and the BNP.
“The idea that there might be children in Newcastle who feel unwelcome or unappreciated because of the religion they practise I find absolutely obscene. That is why I’ll be there on Saturday.”
Police say they have had open dialogue with parties from both demonstrations and say they are satisfied the demos will pass “peacefully”.
Chief Superintendent Laura Young, from Northumbria Police, added:
“I have had guarantees from both organisations that this will be a peaceful demonstration.
“People should not be put off coming into the city centre on Saturday. People will still want to come shopping, there is a football match on in the afternoon and people will be coming for other events.
“I would just say that they should give themselves some extra time to get in and out of the city centre as there have been some road closures.”
The march, which will begin at 10.30am, has attracted national, and international interest.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Feb 2015
A community leader making a stand against an “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle has received beheading death threats from a vile racist thug.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, a key figure in Tyneside’s Muslim community, told how he received a late-night anonymous call saying “you watch; going to kill you, you just watch.”
Mr Ahad, who says he has been the target of racist threats on a number of occasions, said:
“They called me calling me a Black f****** b******. They also said they would chop my head off as well as a f****** Muslim ****.”
The call came as Mr Ahad helped organise a counter-demonstration to Pegida UK’s first British demo, planned to take place in Newcastle city centre at the end of this month.
Now, fears are growing that the protest is attracting members of the region’s Far Right organisations, which Pegida claimed they were trying to “distance” themselves from.
Pegida said last week they planned a “peaceful” demonstration not associated with any extreme Far Right organisations.
Hundreds of people have already gone online to confirm attendance at the rally. The British arm of the highly-criticised German protest movement say their North East following is one of the reasons they will be coming to the city on February 28.
Now, in response, multi-cultural group, Newcastle Unites, chaired by Howard Dickinson, say they will be organising a counter-demo on the same day.
Councillor Ahad, spokesman for the group, said:
“We pride ourselves on the diversity of our communities and our mixed heritages. Newcastle Unites notes, however, an increase in racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Britain and the rest of Europe. In particular a virulent Islamophobia movement known as ‘Pegida’ has emerged recently in Germany where it has been strongly condemned by politicians and faith leaders.
“We are aware that local racists are intent upon importing the ‘Pegida’ message into the UK and are organising an Islamophobic march through Newcastle.
“Newcastle Unites believe that such a development will only serve to stir up racism and division, undermine community cohesion and besmirch the name of Newcastle in the eyes of many in the UK and indeed around the world.
“We believe Pegida must be stopped from spreading their message of racist hate and intolerance and from getting a toe-hold in Newcastle and the UK.
“In the event of Pegida’s provocative march going ahead Newcastle Unites is committed to organising a vibrant, peaceful, multicultural and multi faith counter demonstration that will involve people from the widest possible backgrounds.
“The aim of the protest would be to send on clear and simple message that Pegida is not welcome in Newcastle. The people of Newcastle and the North East must all stand together in unity in the face of Islamphobia, anti Semitism and all other forms of racism and fascism.”
Councillor David Stockdale, from the Blakelaw ward, is backing the counter-demo.
“Pegida’s UK branch like to present themselves as reasonable and harmless. In planning their Islamophobic rally in Newcastle they claim to be operating completely independently of the usual extreme-right gang who frequent EDL and National Front demonstrations in the region.
“Nothing could be further from reality. A simple search of their Facebook and Twitter profiles reveal the truth. It’s the same people pedaling the same racist hate under a different banner.
“When I confronted Pegida about this they blocked me from commenting on Facebook and Twitter but the North East EDL seemed to take exception at being challenged. They spent much of the weekend cowering behind their anonymous Twitter account trying their best to intimidate me with not-so-subtle threats. I don’t encourage anyone to engage online with these bullies and I should have followed my own advice by ignoring them.
“I am fully behind the counter-demonstration being organised by Newcastle Unites. This is a broad Coalition of the Left who are coming together to stand up and speak out against Islamophobia, racism and intolerance.
“We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with Newcastle Unites in opposing the intolerant views of Pegida if they descend on our city. I encourage anyone who can to come along to the counter demonstration.”
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, dozens of Pegida chapters have popped up online, prompting some reports that the group is establishing a bigger presence across Europe.
Plans for the counter demo came on the day MPs warned social media users who spread racial hatred could be banned from sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
An All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism wants prosecutors to examine whether prevention orders like those used to restrict sex offenders’ internet access could be used.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 Feb 2015
A leader of a controversial ‘anti-extremist Islam’ movement today claimed they already have an established following in Newcastle.
More than 320 people have now gone online to confirm attendance at Pegida UK’s Tyneside rally which has also sparked interest from Far-right wing groups in the region.
> Well, there’s a suprise – I wonder how many members of the local racist loonies are the same people as those apparently supporting Pegida ? I’m sure they’ll see it as a nice Trojan horse…
The British arm of the highly-criticised German protest movement say their North East following is one of the reasons they will be coming to the city at the end of this month.
The decision by the group to hold their first UK demo in Tyneside has already met with widespread condemnation.
But Pegida representative Matthew Pope said the march would be “peaceful” with the aim of standing against extremist forms of Islam.
Mr Pope added:
“We did not want to start our UK demos in London because there are a lot of right-wing extremists there and we wouldn’t want to associate ourselves with them.
> Tough shit, mate. You’re going to be their puppet organization.
“We are already have a following in Newcastle and it is far enough away from London to be the best place to get things underway.”
Mr Pope said anywhere up to 1,000 marchers could be expected in the city centre on the planned date of the demonstration, Saturday, February 28.
The plans have been met with concern and the Chronicle can reveal that several individuals, associated with Far-right groups in the North East have already, via social media, confirmed they will be attending.
In a Facebook post, Pegida UK sent out an open invitation to the march, stating: “All are welcome to attend. Let’s show the Islamists we show no fear.”
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, the group claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Mr Pope said:
“We understand that we are going to get tarnished with the same brush as certain other groups but this will be a peaceful demonstration.”
Mr Pope went on to say the purpose of the march would be to take a stand against Islamic extremism and not against the Muslim community.
However, he did say Pegida had concerns about the way the UK Government and police forces were approaching certain issues.
“We have concerns about the way Islam is being taught in schools. We are also worried with the way some groups seems to be setting their own laws withing our system of laws.
“We are certainly not against immigration, but feel our culture is being taken over by another culture.”
Mr Pope said that on February 28, protesters would be handing out leaflets and posters with containing information about their aims and about their views of Islamic law.
Opponents to the group have said they will hold a counter-demonstration if the Newcastle march goes ahead.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick, Newcastle, has already written to Northumbria Police’s chief constable asking for the demo to be banned.
“I’m not hopeful this will happen so we will be planning our own counter-protest, bringing together people from all cultures in the city to celebrate the diversity of our community in a peaceful and celebratory manner.”
Anti Fascist groups in the city also say they are monitoring the plans for the protest.
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, dozens of Pegida chapters have popped up online, prompting some reports that the group is establishing a bigger presence across Europe – in France, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, the UK and other countries where local Pegida Facebook pages have sprung up.
Will the march go ahead?
Pegida UK say they are currently in talks with Northumbria Police over the date, time and place of the march.
Mr Pope said:
“As representative for the organisation I have just started liaising with Northumbria Police about our plans.
“We are hoping that this will be on February 28.
“Although an exact route has not been set down, it will be in Newcastle city centre and we can expect anywhere up to 1,000 people to be attending.
“We are happy to work with the police and follow any guidelines which they set down.”
Newcastle City Council said they had not been contacted by the organisation.
A spokesman added that they have to wait to be informed by the police about any demonstrations happening in the city before taking any necessary action.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Feb 2015
A demonstration by the English Defence League in Middlesbrough and a counter demonstration have passed off (more or less) peacefully, say police.
Over three hundred police officers were involved in the operation, which has been planned for a number of months.
Around 150-200 counter demonstrators gathered, many dressed in red – the home colours of Middlesbrough FC and the workers movement – as a sign of solidarity.
A strong police presence was active around Ayresome Gardens, but counter demo organiser, Lawrie Coombs, said: “Every time the fascists come, we’ll stand together. But we don’t anticipate any trouble.”
Councillor Len Junier was a prominent figure, leading the march onto Linthorpe Road Middlesbrough.
As the crowds gathered he said: “We are lucky in Middlesbrough, we don’t have problems with racism.
“We don’t want the EDL splitting our community. We want to celebrate the diversity in our area. But we don’t want to get in anyone’s face.”
Addressing the crowd before setting off, a Counter demo spokesman told demonstrators to avoid the areas that the EDL were reported to be.
Then the counter demo set off along Linthorpe Road to the sound of drums and whistles.
Len Junier led the march while chanting, “Whose streets?” to which the procession replied, “Our streets!“
Passers-by looked on as the march made its way up towards House of Fraser where a series of anti-racist speeches were made.
The words, “We are British, we’re not going anywhere,” were met with applause from the protesters as the EDL gathered just down the Corporation Road.
Around 350 people took part in the EDL demonstration which set off from Corporation Road at around 2pm.
As the crowd set off, turning the corner from Corporation Road onto Albert Road, it wasn’t long before the singing was broken by the sound of a loud bang.
Police were forced to temporarily halt the march after the bang, from what appeared to have been a firework exploding, shocked many bystanders.
Seconds later, a second firework and a glass bottle were thrown from among the EDL crowd.
As it shattered on the footpath outside Middlesbrough Town Hall, at least one woman was injured and was sat at the road side being treated by an EDL first aider – her foot was bleeding.
Before the march, demonstrators had been warned that banners, flags and placards that might incite disorder would be banned along with anything that could be used to cause injury or damage.
Even so, some of the signs held by EDL supporters were openly hostile in their criticism of Islam.
One read: “Islam causes more deaths a day than cancer does.”
Further fireworks exploded as the procession turned onto Borough road.
As the procession passed some Asian men who were standing at the roadside, certain members of the EDL contingent began chanting “Scum, scum scum.”
Then, as the march turned onto Melrose Street, glass bottles and another firework were thrown in the direction of another group of Asian men, one of whom had a child on his shoulders.
Following this police moved the bystanders away from the march and the missiles which were still being thrown.
Mr Hussein, 37, of Southfield Road, was shocked and baffled by the march.
He said: “I’ve lived here all my life, we live a humble life.
“The people in Middlesbrough have never had these problems before and we don’t want them here now.”
Finally, the EDL supporters gathered outside Teesside Crown Court for speaches.
One speaker said: “When will the government admit that there’s an epidemic of child grooming happening right now.
“Street justice, street justice, is far worse than anything the government can do.”
Still on the issue of child grooming, a second speaker said: “Don’t say this is not a race issue.
“The peaceful majority are irrelevant.”
A total of two men were arrested – one on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and one on suspicion for assaulting a police officer.
Acting assistant chief constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Clearly there has been some disruption in Middlesbrough town centre to allow these demonstrations to take place, and we are grateful to local residents and businesses for their co-operation.
“We have been working with our local communities and partner agencies including Middlesbrough Council for a number of weeks now to ensure people have been aware of the events and have had the opportunity to contact us if they have had specific concerns.”
Police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “I attended one of the briefings to police officers this morning and have been out around the town centre observing activities. The whole operation has been well planned and in consultation with our local communities and businesses.
“Clearly the priority for the police today has been to facilitate each demonstration while ensuring the safety of the public and I am pleased that the day has passed off peacefully.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 June 2014
More than 400 Teessiders have signed up for a counter-demonstration on the same day as the EDL plans to march through Middlesbrough.
As around 350 EDL members will hold a rally in the town centre streets this Saturday, supporters of an anti-EDL group say they will also take to the streets in protest at the EDL’s principles, which they call a “vicious attempt to smear a whole section of the community”.
Steve Cooke, secretary of the Teesside People’s Assembly Against Austerity, who is involved with the counter-demonstration, said: “There is a serious threat to our local community this weekend.
“A counter-demonstration to oppose the EDL’s presence in the area is being organised by a community coalition of local anti-racist activists, under the banner #BoroNo2EDL.
“This will seek to celebrate Teesside’s diversity.”
The anti-EDL demo will assemble at Ayresome Gardens, off Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, at 11am, opposite the One Life Medical Centre.
The group plans to march along Linthorpe Road to the town centre, ending in a rally outside the House of Fraser store.
Earlier, another spokesman for the group, said: “We are all colours and creeds together, just Boro folk trying to get along and making a life together.
“Middlesbrough is a town that was built by incomers, the Irish who built the docks, the Scots who came to work at the steelworks, the West Indians and Asians who came to work in our health service.”
Cleveland Police earlier warned members of the public over the planned rallies, saying any anti-social or criminal behaviour at marches will be dealt with robustly by police.
A spokesman said officers had been working to ensure the event passed peacefully.
Marchers were warned banners, flags and placards that might incite disorder would be banned along with anything that could be used to cause injury or damage.
Face coverings, masks and scarves if used to conceal someone’s identity are also banned and the distribution of leaflets in Middlesbrough town centre is prohibited.
The last demonstration by the EDL which went through Middlesbrough town centre in 2011 passed off peacefully despite it being on the same day as a United Against Fascism march.
For more information on the proposed counter-demonstration, search for BoroNo2EDL on Facebook.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening News, 27 June 2014