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
Organisers of a counter-march against a planned “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle say they are expecting more than 2,000 people to flood the city centre this Saturday.
Newcastle Unites say representatives from the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities will unite in one voice against Pegida’s first UK demo, due to be held this weekend.
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.
This Saturday will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.
But counter demonstrators say they are expecting low numbers to turn out in support of Pegida.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick and part of Newcastle Unites, said:
“Their Facebook page suggests more than 700 people have agreed to come but the reality is there will probably only be a couple of hundred.
“As far as they are concerned, it is looking as if it will be a bit of a damp squid.”
> Damp squid ? I think he means damp squib.
Northumbria Police have met with both groups to discuss policing on the day.
Newcastle Chief Superintendent Laura Young said:
“It will be a busy day in Newcastle on Saturday with a number of events taking place and with lots of people coming into the city centre for things like shopping, socialising and the football.
“The city is a busy place on a Saturday anyway and with all of the extra things taking place then we are advising anyone who is thinking of driving into Newcastle to give themselves extra time and be aware of how their journey might be affected by the delays.
“To minimise disruption to the public we will have motor patrols officers out on the roads to ensure traffic flow and we will do everything we can to keep the roads open and to reduce the impact on the public.
“We have spoken with the local authority and local bus and travel companies about the road closures and we are looking to have all roads re-opened as soon as possible on Saturday.”
Councillor David Stockdale, Newcastle City Council’s Labour ward member for Blakelaw, will be one of the counter-demo’s speakers on the day.
“I will be talking about Newcastle and how it is a city of sanctuary; how it is a community with a proud and long history of standing up to injustice.
“I intend to tackle some of the brutal misrepresentations of Islam which Pegida paints. I think it’s important that a non-Muslim stands up and does that.
“I do wish Pegida were not coming on Saturday but I believe everyone has a right to express their views, no matter for distorted and wrong they are. The best way to deal with these kind of views is to challenge them.”
A public meeting by opponents of Pegida will be held at the city’s central library on Thursday. The event will take place at the Bewick Room at 6pm.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley, who converted to Islam after she was arrested in Afghanistan, will be speaking at the event along with Coun Ahad.
The meeting is intended for supporters of Stop the War Coalition and those who oppose Islamophobia and racism and begins at 6pm.
John and Jennifer Martin, of North Shields, are among those planning to take part in Saturday’s counter-demo.
Mr Martin, 36, a car showroom manager, said:
“My wife and I feel like we have an obligation to take part on Saturday because Newcastle is our home and we don’t want groups like this thinking they can come here and disrupt the harmony we have.
“I don’t know much about where Pegida have come from but I know we don’t want their messages spreading in the North East.”
On Saturday, the following roads will be closed to allow for the demonstrations to take place:
- The Bigg Market will be closed to traffic from around 10am.
- A small section of Gallowgate will be closed from around 10:30am to 10:45am Newcastle Unites march begins.
- A section of Newgate Street will be closed from 10:30am.
- There are no plans to close Clayton Street or Grainger Street.
Officers say they may need to temporarily close other roads on the day depending on activity, however they will look to re-open them as soon as possible and keep the city road network flowing.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 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
Plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school have provoked a storm of protest.
Feelings are so high it has caused a city councillor to stand down from the planning committee which will decide whether to give it the go ahead – to help organise protests against it.
David Pearmain, head teacher of Kenton School, where around 2,000 pupils study, has submitted a lengthy objection to the city council in which he concluded: “For the sake of our children’s health and safety, please do not approve this application.”
Coun David Stockdale, who represents the neighbouring Blakelaw ward, has taken the rare step of “recluse” – voluntary exclusion – because he felt so strongly against the application.
It is for a two-storey drive-through outlet on the old Crofters Lodge pub site at the junction of Kenton Lane and Ponteland Road.
“On the committee you have to be open minded about applications you consider,” he explained. “I’ve already got a pre-determined attitude towards this and it is against it.
“Newcastle has some of the highest incidents of childhood obesity in the country. It’s an epidemic and this would site a McDonald’s on a road leading to the biggest secondary school in the city.”
He added: “Until recently I had public health responsibility on the council. One of the things we did a lot of work on was the provision that we had more power to control unhealthy eating outlets.”
Coun Stockdale said feelings were running high in the area as he leafleted houses located near the proposed site.
Coun Stephen Lambert, who represents the Kenton ward, said: “I’ve had over 58 objections from the Kenton area to this proposal. We feel it’s inappropriate. It is on an extremely busy junction, so there are issues of highway safety.
“All three Kenton councillors are supporting the residents who object to this planning application.”
A local resident who didn’t want to be named, said: “There’s are already two McDonald’s in the area, including one at Kingston Park.
“Obviously it will be a temptation to kids at lunchtime and we worry about it attracting anti-social behaviour. Petitions are being gathered and a lot of people have objected on Newcastle City Council’s website.”
One person who has is Mr Pearmain. He wrote: “Kenton School enjoys the Healthy Schools Award status, but Kenton students will be far more tempted than ever before to buy fast food snacks because of the proximity to the school.
“We know that unhealthy eating and its associated conditions are very high in the relatively deprived districts which are close to the site and which the school serves.
“Although McDonald’s also serves healthy food for those who choose it, as a commercial organisation they allow their paying customers free choice across their products and many young people will choose unhealthy options without the guidance they would receive in school. This will tend strongly to undermine the City Council’s own health policies.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson: “At McDonald’s, we serve good food made from quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. We offer a broad choice and we provide clear nutrition information on our menu boards so our customers can make informed choices that are right for them.
“We would like to reassure local residents that our main priority is to be a good neighbour and we are happy to work with any member of the local community who has concerns about the impact of our business.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 June 2014
UKIP‘s efforts to win in the North East were undermined last night as it emerged they wanted to run a man based in China as a Newcastle candidate.
The party selected Tom Magen to fight a Newcastle seat after he had emailed them to say that while his work takes him to China, he still has an Elswick address and would be happy to stand “as a paper candidate”.
The claims emerged after a would-be party agent withdrew from the UK Independence Party amid fears local issues were not being prioritised.
Mr Magen said he was in discussions with UKIP before he knew the extent of his work commitments, and subsequently withdrew his offer.
Emails seen by The Journal show that in September last year Mr Magen was asked if he would stand, with local party organisers aware of his China links at this time.
Mr Magen told organisers: “I am not sure if you are aware, but I am actually based in China. My UK home address is indeed in Elswick, but I am away for most of the year for work.
“I am happy to stand as a paper candidate but I doubt I will even have time to collect the 10 signatures needed to stand. The run-up to May is always an extremely busy time for me. I am not daunted by the prospect of standing at all.”
In reply local party chiefs told him: “Your offer to stand as a paper candidate is very welcome. We would be happy to collect the signatures for you. I quite understand that you will be too busy to campaign.”
In November last year an email was sent to party members naming Mr Magen among those selected to fight a ward.
News of the party selection emerged after independent grouping Newcastle First announced it was ending a merger with UKIP.
Ernie Shorton, Newcastle First leader, said: “The Newcastle upon Tyne Community First Party agreed to join forces with UKIP because we took a similar position on a number of significant issues, such as tackling uncontrolled immigration, the EU and opposition to high speed rail which will be disastrous for Newcastle’s economy.
“We have discovered that UKIP in Newcastle and Gateshead are a shambles, fielding candidates with little or no experience of campaigning with the regional infrastructure acting as a huge barrier. They selected some candidates they have never met – and one of them was based in China.”
Mr Magen said he had not got to the point of having his name formally listed with the council as a candidate, saying: “As I am based abroad for most of the year, I felt it would be wrong to stand as a candidate and informed the team. I confirm, I have never stood as a UKIP candidate nor have I had any contact with anyone from Newcastle First.”
The would-be candidate has previously stood for the Conservatives, in 2006 in Newcastle. In September last year Mr Magen, director of North East International Education Development, said that having been helped by UKTI to establish the business’ overseas links, it had brought its first cohort of Chinese students to the region for study.
Labour have seized on the spat as “proof” of UKIP’s indifference to local issues.
David Stockdale, vice chair of the local Labour group, said: “This debacle is proof if it were needed that UKIP don’t represent Newcastle’s best interests.”
A spokesman for UKIP said: “We regret that matters with Mr Shorton did not work out as we might have hoped. We wish him all the best for the future.
“The potential UKIP candidate to whom he refers had some links to China at the time he was selected. As soon as it became clear that his work would require him to take up residence in China, he immediately resigned as a candidate. This was the correct decision. There is no story here.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 01 Mar 2014