Fagan-type gangs could be making up to £100 a day from begging on Newcastle’s streets, a charity boss claims, in the latest attempt to demonise the poorest – not to mention attacking the results while ignoring the causes.
Steve Bell, chief executive of Changing Lives in the city, has welcomed the move to ban aggressive beggars from Newcastle city centre.
The charity works with people who are homeless, battling addictions or dealing with other problems.
Mr Bell said: “We welcome what the council have done. If people want to give they should not be giving money – a cup of tea, a sandwich.
“There’s been a massive increase in people begging but not using our service or sleeping rough.
“We know there have been some harsh conversations between the rough-sleeping population and those coming in to beg.
“Some people are earning over £100 a day from begging.
> As usual we’re told they’re earning this or that – given that they’re unlikely to be keeping accounts, how do we know this ?
Secondly, if you’re really earning over £100 a day, why on earth would you want a ‘normal’ life living on £72 a week ?
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
Demonstrators against an anti-Islam march planned for Newcastle city centre have expressed concerns over the presence of maverick MP George Galloway.
It comes after Mr Galloway announced plans to join a counter demo in the city on February 28 against Pegida UK’s first British rally.
But in an open letter other counter demonstrators have highlighted concerns that the Respect MP’s “divisive public figure” is raising issues among those hoping to take a stand against Pegida.
Gary Spedding, 24, a human rights advocate and Northumbria University student, said in the letter:
“This is highly problematic for us wishing to attend and support the demonstration against Pegida.
“Whilst we appreciate organisers have made it clear that they are aware his politics are not agreeable with everybody who will be in attendance, we do believe there are vital aspects which have been overlooked.”
The letter, co-signed by Lizi Gray, Women’s Representative for Northumbria University, goes on to outline concerns over Mr Galloway’s stance on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as well as his alleged past comments suggesting Julian Assange was accused of nothing more than “bad sexual etiquette”.
Mr Assange is currently wanted in Sweden to face allegations – which he denies – of sexual assault made by two women.
But the open letter has angered Mr Galloway who today said he planned to take action in relation to it.
“I’m extremely disappointed that two individuals with their own agenda, in a highly-defamatory letter over which I am taking action, are effectively undermining the opposition to Pegida.”
> Aint that what so often happens, though ? And all the people who aren’t pushing their own agendas but just, you know, think it right to protest against a right wing organization like Pegida, they just get fed up and don’t bother anymore.
The MP last week revealed plans to come up and be part of a counter-demonstration where he will stand “beside the hundreds of other anti-Fascists against this highly-provocative incursion by Pegida which can only be intended to stir up racial hatred.”
Pegida have said the are planning a “peaceful” demonstration not associated with any extreme Far Right organisations and picked Newcastle because they already had a number of followers from the area.
The counter demonstration, organised by multi-cultural organisation Newcastle Unites, is expected to include representatives from a number of anti-fascist organisations.
In the open letter, Mr Speding goes on to say:
“We hope that organisers will disinvite Mr Galloway, or if too late for a disinvitation, then at the very least consider not giving him a platform.”
> I, for one, hope they don’t.
Northumbria Police have now confirmed they have spoken to Pegida in relation to arrangements for the planned march.
A spokesman added:
“We have spoken to the organisers and they have informed us they plan to hold their event on February 28.
“We are aware there are also plans in place for counter events to be held in the city on the same day.
“We will now speak to all of those involved, our partners and our local communities and over the coming days agree on plans for the events.
“Northumbria Police respects the right to peaceful protest and takes a neutral standpoint, not supporting or endorsing any groups or individuals.
“Our role is to protect, reassure and support our communities as well as the safety of everyone – those attending any events, those protesting, the general public and those policing them.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 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
Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.
A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.
For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.
These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.
Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.
Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.
It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.
Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.
The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.
Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:
“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.
“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.
“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.
“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”
Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
In an interview the council leader said:
“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”
Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:
“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014
Nuisance beggars in Newcastle City Centre are making up to £200 a day, according to a charity boss who is warning people not to hand over their cash.
> How could he possibly know how much someone makes ?
Kind-hearted folk who have been responding to the beggars’ requests for spare change have even seen one man walk away with £360 from a day on the streets.
> Again, how do we know this ?
Stephen Bell, chief executive of homeless charity Changing Lives said the money is being used to fund addictions and people would be better giving them food and a hot drink if they want to help.
“People are begging to fund one habit or the other, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging. Beggars at the moment are getting an awful lot of money,” said Mr Bell.
> “We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging.” But how do we know its true ? Surely its an allegation rather than a fact.
This claim actually mirrors a Sherlock Holmes story (I forget the title) where a man finds he can earn more as a beggar than by slaving away in “proper” job. He catches the train up to London (his wife thinks he’s doing a normal job), changes into his begging gear in a rented room, and then goes to work.
He said it is crucial for the public to realise the distinction between someone who is begging and a homeless person.
There are currently services across Newcastle which work with the city’s homeless and enough bed spaces for people so that no one has to spend a night outdoors. Changing Lives also do a daily check at 5.30am on how many people are sleeping rough in the city centre.
However over the last two years he said there has been a significant increase in begging.
> And a significant increase in sanctions. Coincidence ?
“Please do not give money to beggars. Give them a drink or a hot meal or give your money to a charity. We need to stop killing people with kindness. The police can help, they can move people away from main streets, but inevitably they just move them to another place. Not giving money genuinely does work, there would be a drop in earnings,” he said.
The warning comes as Northumbria Police is revealed to have made a record number of arrests for begging in 2013 with 61 people detained.
While statistics are still being compiled for 2014, figures for arrests are considerably reduced and police have said it is not their aim to prosecute beggars, but instead help them to work with charities.
Newcastle Superintendent Bruce Storey said:
“The reason the figure went up in 2013 was on the back of an increase in reports to police about concerns around the issue of beggars and begging, primarily in the Newcastle city centre area.
“These concerns came from local residents, visitors to the area and local businesses in the city centre and the issue has been, and continues to be, a priority for the city centre policing team.
“Our aim is not to arrest or prosecute beggars. We are keen to ensure those who need help are given it and we are running operations where we work together with charities and partners to identify those who need help or support and ensure they are given assistance.
“Northumbria Police and our partners are doing everything we can to assist genuine homeless people, whilst tackling those individuals who come in to the region to beg then leave.”
Newcastle City Council have said the roll-out of tougher powers handed to authorities put a stop to aggressive and persistent beggars from the Government have been delayed until January.
Eventually councils will have the legal power to give beggars injunctions in an attempt to prevent nuisance and annoyance to the public, and to compel them to accept accommodation and to get help for drug and alcohol abuse.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.
More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.
Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.
Picket lines were mounted outside schools, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.
Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.
The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.
A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.
The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.
Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.
Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.
Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.
These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.
“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”
The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.
Most were delighted at the turnout.
Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”
Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.
“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”
A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.
Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.
“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”
Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.
Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.
And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.
The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.”
Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.
Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 July 2014
Police have warned that any anti-social or criminal behaviour linked to a planned English Defence League demonstration will be dealt with “robustly”.
It comes as hundreds of demonstrators plan to march through Middlesbrough later this month.
Cleveland Police officers are in talks with a number of groups over plans by members of the EDL from as far afield as London and Scotland to gather in the town on June 28.
About 250 EDL supporters have already confirmed they are attending on Facebook – with organisers saying full details of the demo will be released “at a later date”.
It is understood that they may try to march through residential areas, finishing at the war memorial on Linthorpe Road.
It comes after a recent demonstration in Newcastle city centre in which Teesside flags could be seen.
Counter demonstrations are also being planned by groups opposed to the EDL.
Cleveland Police Superintendent Mark Thornton said: “A representative of the EDL has made contact with police informing us of their intention to gather in Middlesbrough later this month and we are in dialogue with them.
“Groups have a lawful right to gather or protest in a peaceful manner and Cleveland Police will plan for and try to facilitate such events.
“We are aware that other groups have expressed their intention to gather and express their own views that day however, as yet, no representatives have come forward to give police a clear indication of their intentions for that day.
“Finally, we are in contact with a number of community groups from across Middlesbrough to reassure them of our commitment to the day passing off peacefully, without incident, and with minimal disruption to residents of and visitors to Middlesbrough.
“I would stress that anyone coming to Cleveland with the intention of taking part in anti-social or criminal behaviour will be dealt with robustly.”
John Bloom, a spokesman for Teesside Solidarity Movement, which is calling on Teessiders to stand against the EDL march, said: “We are asking the real decent people of Middlesbrough and Teesside to come out and to stand with us instead on the 28th.
“Let’s show those who want to divide us, by race and by colour that we will have none of it.
“Ours will be a celebration together of what’s good about Teesside folk, standing together against the racism.
“Boro folk are not black and white. 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.
“On the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings, we are reminded of the price that we pay, when we allow people to try to set us apart from each other by race and religion.”
Mr Bloom said the details of the solidarity parade were being finalised.
Nobody from the EDL was available for comment.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 11 June 2014