Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city yesterday.
The German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britain was outnumbered by more than five to one as families, anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups all turned out in opposition.
And though five people were arrested the potential powderkeg passed off relatively peacefully.
But Pegida have vowed Saturday was only its “first of many” appearances in the UK.
> And the first of many humiliating put-downs…. the standard has been set.
“I wish this hadn’t been necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, who spoke at the counter protest.
“What we would have liked is for Pegida to have not picked our great city to march in in the first place.
“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really showed that Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”
Official figures from Northumbria Police suggested 2,000 people had turned out for the Newcastle Unites counter protest, which marched from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate before rallying before a stage on Newgate Street.
Among them was record dealer Adrian Farquhar, from Gateshead, and Katherine Reed, a carer, who said they felt it was important to show their son the importance of standing up to groups like Pegida.
“We came for our seven-year-old son,” Adrian said. “We can’t let these people like Pegida dictate the kind of world he grows up in.”
The demo was also attended by Respect MP George Galloway, a number of Newcastle councillors, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, and German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.
“For me it was very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” said Arne.
“This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will have called themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.
“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”
George Galloway said:
“All right-thinking people in Britain condemn the idea of a German Nazi group coming to the North East of England trying to stir up trouble.
“The vast majority of British people respect that and the people who are on here on the counter-demonstration are representing millions.
“We have problems in Britain without racism and Islamophobia being further stoked.”
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who joined the counter-rally, said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march was “fantastic.”
“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.
“But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”
> Well, clear-thinking was never their strong point… or indeed thinking at all.
One hundred yards in front of them, on the other side of a large police cordon filled with scores of uniformed police and mounted officers, around 375 Pegida supporters congregated in the Bigg Market.
Among the German-founded group, which insists it is neither fascist or racist, banners supporting the English Defence League and National Front could be seen.
One male supporter said:
“This has nothing to do with race. It is about Islamification of our country and nobody is doing anything about it. We want people to integrate when they come here and that is not happening.
“When we bring up these issues we are called bigots and racists but we just want to protect our heritage.”
Speakers at the one-hour gathering, which called for an “end to Islamification of the west”, had called for a peaceful protest but some supporters attempted to break through the police line after the Bigg Market demo closed, and around 100 Pegida supporters formed a line at Grainger Street in an effort to goad those on the Newcastle Unites side.
However police officers and mounted units swiftly moved in to prevented further disorder.
> Meanwhile, Pegida tried to put a positive spin on their laughably pathetic turn-out by blaming – wait for it – transport problems, without which there would have been an extra thousand there, honest.
Pegida said: “Thank you all for the first peaceful Pegida rally in UK today!
“The early hour made us lose about 1,000 people that had booked transport for 1pm which was our goal.”
> Which suggests that the extra thousand would have been rent-a-mob bused in from elsewhere.
Though it does beg the question why – since the time of the demo was known for some time – they couldn’t change their travel times.
Of course, it’s more likely they never actually existed at all, and so the non-racist Pegida had to rely on the like of the EDL to boost their attendance to the heights of, er, 375.
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
Once again Berwick put up a magnificent display of solidarity in opposing the racist Scottish Defence League and their fascist friends the North East Infidels marching in our streets last Saturday.
After our boisterous but good natured and orderly march up and down the town we held a rally at Marygate. The theme was “whose streets? our streets”, “whose town? our town”, “whose walls?” and so on.
In other words, the town belongs to us, not to shipped in, masked up fascists and racists who came from across Scotland and England to whip up racism in Berwick.
Our final rally at the Guildhall had Jim Herbert introduce a series of speakers: local trades unionists; Berwick Trades Union Council; Unite Against Fascism Scotland; Newcastle “People’s Assembly”; Berwick Migrant Support Group; and local people of no particular affiliation.
The speakers addressed many of the concerns of local people. The trades union council in particular has had some criticism on how best to deal with the fascists. Some have argued that it’s best to ignore them and they’ll eventually go away. And that they are only coming here to seek confrontation.
Many of our speakers, some of whom with a vast experience on this, explained that this is profoundly mistaken. History demonstrates that where they are ignored they grow, they gain confidence and locals inclined to these insidious views, on seeing no opposition, join them.
One of the reasons overtly fascist and racist parties have failed in the UK is precisely because of local opposition initiated by the trades union movement.
Berwick Trades Union Council and the RMT union branch are proud of standing in this fine tradition. To keep Berwick safe, diverse and welcoming “good people”, as Albert Einstein explained, have to do something to oppose evil.
The SDL and NEI have dedicated their hateful existence to attacking Asian people and Muslims. Islamophobia – bigotry against Muslims is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. It tries to divide us by scapegoating one community, just as the Nazis did with Jewish people in the 1930s.
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. We have to continue to oppose fascists when they march.
Messages of support were read out, including an anti-fascist message from Sir Alan Beith.
Phil Thompson, Secretary of Berwick & District TUC
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 July 2014