“Today we are a united Newcastle.”
Thousands of voices will be joined in unison to reject attempts by a controversial ‘anti Islam’ movement to spread their message to Tyneside.
Pegida, which claims it is trying to defend the UK from the spread of Islamic extremism, was due to hold its first British demonstration in Newcastle city centre on Saturday.
But a rapidly growing counter-demonstration, attracting in excess of 2,000 people, is expected to simultaneously march through the city centre in protest over Pegida.
The counter-demo has attracted a series of politicians, public figures, community leaders and activists.
Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, today sent this message to Pegida:
“I am horrified you have decided to hold your first event in the UK in our fantastic city.
“But the event shows that vile views – which incite religious and racial hatred – will not be allowed to take root in Newcastle and the North East.
“Tyneside has a proud history of cultural diversity, multi-faith co-operation and mutual respect. That will continue long after Pegida have left. Hopefully – thanks to the huge swell of support from all participating – they will well and truly get the message that their message of hate will not take root here.”
North East Journalist, author and vice president of the European Muslim League, Yvonne Ridley, is also returning to her home city for the counter-demo.
Today she said:
“I love Newcastle. It’s a city of happy memories for me. It has been my home, workplace and playground. It’s the city where I became a mother and it is the city which is now educating my daughter, courtesy of the university.
“My ties with Newcastle are unbreakable. That the far right group Pegida has chosen here to stage its first march outside of Germany is beyond shocking and I will do everything in my power as a mother, trade unionist, peace activist and Geordie to make sure this visit is the last.
“The march is about Islamaphobia – the targeting of a group of people purely for their religious beliefs and who remembers the last time a religious group was persecuted in Europe?
“My 88-year-old widowed mother Joyce says she will travel from her home in County Durham with her friend to show her solidarity with Muslims across Britain. Why would she do such a thing for a group of people she’s never met? As she says her own father took up arms in the First World War and her husband in the Second World War, as well as many others in her family who paid the blood price so that millions could enjoy the sort of freedoms and liberties denied under fascist regimes.
“Make no mistake, those who invited Pegida to come to this great city have no love for the region or those who live here. First they play the nationalist card and then they try and link their evil ideology to mainstream issues in party politics, political communication and immigration.
“It is undeniable that huge swathes of our population genuinely feel abandoned by the government which seems to care more about protecting corporate business and the banksters, but these issues can only be sorted out through becoming politically engaged especially at the ballot box.
“Come and join me and my mum on Newcastle’s counter rally. It’s the right thing to do.”
The counter-demo has been organised by multi-cultural organisation Newcastle Unites.
Elswick Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Newcastle Unites, said:
“I hear so many people’s anger and frustration that Pegida are coming to Newcastle.
“I fully understand, however let us not hate Pegida, but pity them, but most importantly thank them, thank them for uniting us all, people from all backgrounds, race and religion
“This is the first time I’ve see so much unity, and this makes me proud to be a British Geordie Muslim, who’s elected to serve all, no matter who
“So let’s not disunite after possibly the biggest counter demo against hate the UK has seen, and let’s make this a platform to build on something great and eradicate all types of evil
“I urge you all to be part of something great, and this can only be achieved by our unity
“Saturday is the beginning of Pegida in the UK, and together we can ensure it’s the end of Pegida.”
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.
Gillian and Jim Anderton were both due to take part in the counter-demo.
Jim, 46, of Heaton, said:
“I was hoping this wouldn’t happen and Pegida would change their minds about coming.
“But the people of Newcastle will always come together for the good of the city. We are a united Newcastle.”
A spokesman for the Tyne and Wear Anti Fascist Association said:
“We are appalled at the presence of Pegida on the streets of Newcastle. We call upon the decent people of the North East to protest at the hateful and divisive racism of this organisation.”
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. Pegida are due to hold their static demo at 11am.
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 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, 27 Feb 2015