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