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
The criminal justice system in the North East is in chaos because of an “ideologically driven” drive to privatise public services and a series of “botched and expensive re-organisations”, a peer has warned.
Lord Beecham, the former leader of Newcastle City Council, hit out at the Government’s changes in a House of Lords debate.
He highlighted the Journal’s report that there had been a massive increase in the number of people representing themselves in family law courts, thanks to cuts in legal aid – leading to lengthy delays.
The proportion of North East parents attempting to make do without a lawyer in court has leapt from 34% to 53% of litigants since the removal of legal aid from family lawyers in April 2013. It means that proceedings are delayed as judges attempt to explain how the law works to parents.
And local law firms warn that parents taking part in child custody cases, and other cases involving the welfare of children, are failing to explain their case properly to courts.
Lord Beecham urged the Ministry of Justice to act. He said: “As many of us warned, the cuts in legal aid are having a serious effect on family and especially child-related proceedings.
“The Journal newspaper reported on Saturday a rise of 61% in people representing themselves, with the predictable result of serious delays.”
He also highlighted the riot in a North East prison which saw 50 inmates take over a wing at HMP Northumberland in March.
One inmate has written to prisoners’ magazine Inside Time to claim the riot was down to frustration at staff shortages which had put a stop to some workshops.
Lord Beecham pointed out that the prison, previously known as HMP Acklington, was run by a private contractor.
He said: “Also in the North East we have had the experience of a prison riot at the newly privatised Acklington Prison where 130 staff left, about a third of the total.
“The prison is now managed by Sodexo, one of those oligopolies assumed by the Government to be capable of running any public service.”
And the Labour peer, who led Newcastle City Council from 1977 to 1994, attacked proposals to split up the probation service.
Regional probation services will be replaced by a national service responsible for “high risk” offenders while private firms will run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) which manage lower risk offenders.
The Northumbria Branch of trade union Napo, which represents probation officers, had written to the Ministry of Justice to raise concerns about “job security, workload, increased management spans, reduced support from human resources and especially the transfer of cases and the split between risk categories,” he said.
“They are worried about the risk to public safety as a result of the split and point to bureaucratic delays in transfers, with existing users being transferred and high risk offenders going to new officers.”
And Lord Beecham warned that outsourcing of child protection services could cause further problems.
He said: “The Government launched a consultation, lasting all of six weeks about plans to permit local authorities to outsource children’s social services to the likes of G4S and Serco.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 June 2014