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
Hate attacks on Muslims in Britain quadrupled in the months after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby last year, a study by North-East academics has found.
Of the 734 anti-Muslim attacks reported to the Tell Mama charity hotline in a ten-month period to February this year, over half were in the two months after the drummer was stabbed to death in Woolwich in May 2013, the University of Teesside report shows.
Over half of the Islamophobic attacks in the period were committed against women, often targeted because they were wearing clothes people associate with Islam.
> Or more likely because they are seen as softer targets…I suspect the average heroic defender of our British way of life (whatever that is) would rather hit a woman or child than take on some hard-looking guy.
The report is published by the university’s centre for Fascist, anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies – the first research unit of its kind in the UK dedicated to the study of the far-right and its violent opposition.
It also comes just days after the far-right English Defence League marched through the streets of Middlesbrough in protest at what it described as “Muslim grooming gangs”.
Report authors Dr Matthew Feldman and research assistant Mark Littler said they found Muslims were facing hate crime, both online and in the streets, on a daily basis.
Dr Feldman said: “Muslims remain amongst the most likely minority group in Britain to be targeted for a hate crime. ‘Trigger’ events like the murder of Drummer Rigby clearly magnify the possibility of far-right groups and others victimising Muslims simply for who they are and what they believe.”
While police and government figures show that hate crime incidents are generally falling, those against Muslims appear to have significantly increased since the Tell MAMA project was set up in 2012.
The new report shows that less than one in six people who reported incidents to Tell MAMA actually went to the police.
It also reveals that 60 per cent of perpetrators were aged between ten and 30 – suggesting anti-Muslim prejudice among a younger generation raised in the shadow of 9/11 and 7/7.
Nearly half of all online incidents were linked to far right organisations.
Dr Feldman said he was most concerned about the fact that hate crime was being under-reported.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE, Director of Tell MAMA, said: “We know we are only getting a snapshot of what’s happening, but it is clear that fear and apprehension is evident among Muslim women.”
The report, titled ‘Anti-Muslim Overview, Analysis and Cumulative Extremism,’ will be officially launched at an event on Friday 4 July, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, at the Old Shire Hall in County Durham.
Source – Northern Echo, 01 July 2014