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
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
A leader of a controversial ‘anti-extremist Islam’ movement today claimed they already have an established following in Newcastle.
More than 320 people have now gone online to confirm attendance at Pegida UK’s Tyneside rally which has also sparked interest from Far-right wing groups in the region.
> Well, there’s a suprise – I wonder how many members of the local racist loonies are the same people as those apparently supporting Pegida ? I’m sure they’ll see it as a nice Trojan horse…
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 at the end of this month.
The decision by the group to hold their first UK demo in Tyneside has already met with widespread condemnation.
But Pegida representative Matthew Pope said the march would be “peaceful” with the aim of standing against extremist forms of Islam.
Mr Pope added:
“We did not want to start our UK demos in London because there are a lot of right-wing extremists there and we wouldn’t want to associate ourselves with them.
> Tough shit, mate. You’re going to be their puppet organization.
“We are already have a following in Newcastle and it is far enough away from London to be the best place to get things underway.”
Mr Pope said anywhere up to 1,000 marchers could be expected in the city centre on the planned date of the demonstration, Saturday, February 28.
The plans have been met with concern and the Chronicle can reveal that several individuals, associated with Far-right groups in the North East have already, via social media, confirmed they will be attending.
In a Facebook post, Pegida UK sent out an open invitation to the march, stating: “All are welcome to attend. Let’s show the Islamists we show no fear.”
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, the group claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Mr Pope said:
“We understand that we are going to get tarnished with the same brush as certain other groups but this will be a peaceful demonstration.”
Mr Pope went on to say the purpose of the march would be to take a stand against Islamic extremism and not against the Muslim community.
However, he did say Pegida had concerns about the way the UK Government and police forces were approaching certain issues.
“We have concerns about the way Islam is being taught in schools. We are also worried with the way some groups seems to be setting their own laws withing our system of laws.
“We are certainly not against immigration, but feel our culture is being taken over by another culture.”
Mr Pope said that on February 28, protesters would be handing out leaflets and posters with containing information about their aims and about their views of Islamic law.
Opponents to the group have said they will hold a counter-demonstration if the Newcastle march goes ahead.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick, Newcastle, has already written to Northumbria Police’s chief constable asking for the demo to be banned.
“I’m not hopeful this will happen so we will be planning our own counter-protest, bringing together people from all cultures in the city to celebrate the diversity of our community in a peaceful and celebratory manner.”
Anti Fascist groups in the city also say they are monitoring the plans for the protest.
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 – in France, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, the UK and other countries where local Pegida Facebook pages have sprung up.
Will the march go ahead?
Pegida UK say they are currently in talks with Northumbria Police over the date, time and place of the march.
Mr Pope said:
“As representative for the organisation I have just started liaising with Northumbria Police about our plans.
“We are hoping that this will be on February 28.
“Although an exact route has not been set down, it will be in Newcastle city centre and we can expect anywhere up to 1,000 people to be attending.
“We are happy to work with the police and follow any guidelines which they set down.”
Newcastle City Council said they had not been contacted by the organisation.
A spokesman added that they have to wait to be informed by the police about any demonstrations happening in the city before taking any necessary action.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Feb 2015
A Muslim leader in the North East has added his voice to condemnation of the terrorist attack at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 dead.
Abu Tayeb, chairman of Islamic Diversity, an organisation which promotes better understanding of the Muslim faith, strongly denounced the attack as “unacceptable behaviour”.
But he said he would not apologise for the attack because it had nothing to do with Muslims or the Islamic faith.
“We’re not going to apologise for their actions because they don’t have anything to do with us. It is similar to the Lee Rigby murder in that they were individuals acting for themselves. There is no link between Islam and their actions. We condemn it.”
The Muslim Council of Britain reiterated its own denouncement of the horrific scenes in Paris, which saw 12 individuals murdered, including two police officers, at the offices of the weekly satirical magazine in Paris.
Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said:
“Nothing justifies the taking of life. Those who have killed in the name of our religion claim to be avenging the insults made against Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. But nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved Prophet than such a callous act of murder. Our thoughts, prayers and solidarity go to the families of the victims and the people of France.
“While Muslims must engage with fellow citizens in a spirit of dialogue and friendship, we must all come together to seek unity and defy the terrorists whose only aim is to divide us. The best defence against closed minds is for a truly open society, welcoming of all.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Jan 2015
Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris and transport unions have reacted with fury to reports that the UK’s only Government-run rail line is to be taken over by a consortium largely owned by the French state.
Mr Morris said the decision to re-privatise the East Coast line was “right-wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of passengers”.
Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmour and the RMT and TSSA unions were also highly critical of the expected decision.
The UK Government has been anxious to return the London to Scotland East Coast main line to the private sector ever since it was taken over from National Express by the Department for Transport in 2009.
But now it is likely that this week’s announcement of a new private franchise will see the line, from next year, being run by joint bidders Eurostar and French transport company Keolis which is 70% owned by state-run French rail company SNCF.
Opponents of the move to re-privatise the East Coast line have pointed out that the public-sector run company has made big returns to the Treasury during its tenure.
Mr Morris said:
“This public-run rail franchise has generated over a billion pounds for the Treasury. If this is what a publicly-run train operating franchise can deliver, at a time when every penny counts, we should be looking at ways to bring privately run railways back into public ownership not the other way round.
“This is right wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of the service, consideration for passengers and the public finances. The public-run East Coast main line franchise has consistently been the best performing franchise when it comes to passenger and staff satisfaction, fares and profitability. “
Ms Gilmore said:
“Passengers recognise the improvements to services that East Coast have made under public ownership over the last few years. They also appreciate that at present, all profits are retained for the benefit of British passengers and taxpayers.
“But despite calls from Labour for these arrangements to continue in the long term, today we hear that East Coast is set to be privatised just before the next general election.”
She went on:
“Ironically if the contract is awarded to Keolis – which is largely owned by the French government – ticket revenue may well be reinvested in improved services. Unfortunately these will be services between places like Paris and Lyon or Marseille and Monaco, rather than Edinburgh and London.
“A future Labour government would allow a public sector operator to bid for rail contracts, so that passengers and taxpayers always get value for money.”
A win for Eurostar/Keolis would mean disappointment for the other two bidders – FirstGroup and a joint venture between Virgin Trains and transport company Stagecoach.
Before National Express pulled out of the franchise, a previous private operator – GNER – also ceased running the East Coast line after its parent company Sea Containers got into financial difficulties.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union said re-privatising the line was “ludicrous” and a “national disgrace”.
“This is pure industrial vandalism and the strong rumour that the French-state operator is in pole position to mop up this vital, strategic north/south route says it all.
“This Government is happy to have state ownership of our railways as long as it isn’t by the British state, in the interests of the British people.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union, said:
“This has got nothing to do with improving services but everything to do with sheer political spite.
“Here we have the best-value franchise, which has returned £1 billion to the taxpayer over the past five years, being sold overseas because it is a public sector success story.
“Rather than allow that to continue, the Tories would rather see it in French hands. They don’t want the voters having the chance to keep it in the public sector by voting Labour in May.”
He went on:
“We are in the absurd position that the country that invented railways, and gave them to the world, is no longer considered by the Tories capable enough to run our own railway firms.
“They prefer French, German and Dutch state railways to run them instead. ‘Anyone but the Brits’ seems to be their vindictive attitude.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Nov 2014
Campaigners have hit out at rail fares as it was revealed it is cheaper to drive to London in a Bugatti Veyron than catch the train.
Fares from Newcastle and Middlesbrough to the capital city work out more expensive by almost 10p per mile than driving the £850,000 supercar.
Rail travel to London at peak times costs even more – at 20p per mile more than the gas guzzling motor.
An investigation revealed the Veyron, which has an engine more powerful than that in a World War Two Hawker Hurricane fighter plane, costs a whopping 32p per mile to drive.
This means a journey in the Bugatti from Newcastle Central station to Kings Cross would cost a whopping £90.24. The same journey in a tiny Volkswagen Up! would cost around £28.
Travelling from Middlesbrough Rail Station to Kings Cross would cost £80.64.
But the journeys by rail were more even more expensive – at a cost of 45p per mile for an off-peak journey and 45p during rush hour.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said:
“Whilst East Coast has been a stunning success in public ownership, delivering a billion pounds back the taxpayer while the private train companies drain similar sums out, these figures show that in the run-up to the intended re-privatisation the route is being fattened up with eye-watering fares that can be exploited by any new private company taking over in the future.”
Andy Silvester, campaign manager of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, said:
“It’s totally understandable that taxpayers want a train line that they’re paying for to have more affordable ticket prices.
“The East Coast Mainline should be returned to private hands as soon as practically possible, as it is only by reintroducing competition that prices will come down.
> Do you think he really believes that ? Against all the evidence ?
“Of course, passengers are paying even more for their train tickets than the price of the ticket, as they’re also funding it through their taxes.”
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Better Transport, said:
“For the vast majority of people, the 2 hour 50 minute train journey from London to Newcastle will still be better value than the five hour drive, and come at less cost to the environment.
“The Government must take stronger action to keep rail fares down to ensure this continues to be the case.”
The Veyron has an out of town fuel economy of 15.6 letres per 100km, which was used to calculate how it fared compared to rail tickets between Newcastle and the capital.
Booking a ticket in advance allows travellers to pay less for train at specific times of the day. But for flexibility passengers need to buy off-peak and anytime singles and their prices stay the same all day.
The Veyron’s impressive cost for the journey highlights rising rail fares in England. Comparisons made by the Sunday Sun show it matches the price of a train ticket between Paris and Lyon in France, at exactly 32p per mile.
The journey on the continent is 243.23 miles compared to 268 between Newcastle and London.
A distance of 407 miles between Madrid and Barcelona puts the high rail fares in the UK in even sharper light. A journey between the two Spanish cities would cost just 22p per mile.
But a taxi ride between the two UK cities would set you back the most at £1.80 per mile or an eye-watering £496.80 on the metre.
The cheapest option would be to take a coach, at just 11p per mile and £29 per ticket.
Source – Sunday Sun, 05 Oct 2014