Sightseers could be banned from taking snaps of North landmarks and uploading them to social media sites if proposals in Europe get the go-ahead… or maybe not – UKIP circulating scare stories again.
The law would change what is known in the UK as the ‘freedom of panorama’ exemption that lets people to take use photos of modern buildings and artworks such as Gateshead’s The Angel of the North or Bottle of Notes in Middlesbrough how they like.
Jonathan Arnott, UKIP MEP for the North East, said the law would be an attack on the country’s freedoms but his opponents accuse him of scaremongering over EU proposals.
He said: “This would end up being another example of unintended consequences which so often happens when the EU passes laws.
“It is idiotic and would mean that visitors would not be able to snap views of the Angel of the North and other famous works and use them commercially if they so wanted.
“This attempt to restrict the freedom of panorama, by allies of the Lib Dems in Brussels, strikes at the root of our liberties. It will destroy an explicit British freedom guaranteed in our copyright legislation for over 100 years.
“Art and photography are valuable because of their intrinsic freedom. Freedom is constantly undermined by the European Union as we have seen time and time again.”
Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone said the amendment has no connection to his party in Europe and accused the MEP of creating “scare stories”.
He said: “This proposal has had nothing whatsoever to do with the Liberal Democrats or the ALDE bloc of EU Liberal parties and it is frankly pretty desperate stuff from a party that trades exclusively on Euro myths and scare stories.”
Many homes in the region are displaying election posters in the run up to May 7, but one house in Teesside has put up a sign with a difference.
John Spence, who lives in Valley Drive in Yarm, is encouraging everyone to ‘Vote Muppet’, and is displaying a sign in his front garden to illustrate to the point to passersby.
The sign includes an image of Kermit the frog, along with his message “Vote Muppet – you will get one anyway.”
The candidate profile for Kermit the frog includes “He has led the Muppets through crisis after crisis.”
The sign has prompted a strong reaction on social media, with one Twitter user describing the stunt as “absolutely brilliant” and saying “I love it and would do the same in our garden.”
Another user commented that he believed the Muppets were set for a “landside majority.”
Others have also made reference to other party leaders whilst tweeting about the sign. One wrote “Apparently someone put up an election poster saying Vote Muppet! Looks like David Cameron could be using two identities in Election Campaign.”
Source – Northern Echo, 06 May 2015
A Hartlepool cabbie and charity stalwart who is standing for MP has had thousands of hits onstanding for MP he has created as part of his campaign.
Well-known Hartlepool taxi driver Stephen Picton, who has raised more than £50,000 for good causes, will challenge Labour’s Iain Wright as an independent candidate when the town goes to the polls in May.
Back in March 2011, Stephen recorded his own version of Thom Pace’s hit Maybe, which is the theme tune from the Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
It proved a huge success, racking up more than 9,000 YouTube views.
“I’ve been doing videos on Facebook for a few years and I do a lot of charity work, that’s how people got to know me.
“I just turned it around and used it as a format to let people know how I was feeling while I’m running for MP.
“One of them has had 6,000 views.
“I’ve had no negative comments at all, people have actually been saying that they feel the same as me.”
The dad-of-four from the Oxford Road area of Hartlepool, said:
“I use videos and social media to help me along my way in the campaign.
“It’s a big part of everyday life now.”
He also raised £50,000 before his 40th birthday by organising dozens of quirky fundraisers.
Stephen, also known as Taffy the taxi driver, is campaigning on improving services for Hartlepool including the reinstatement of the town’s hospital.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 13 Mar 2015
A Nazi-affiliated hate website has appealed for the personal information of members of the public, after publishing photos of people who took part in Saturday’s ‘Newcastle Unites’ march.
Redwatch carries the slogan “Remember places, traitors’ faces, they’ll all pay for their crimes” – a quote from Ian Stuart Donaldson, the frontman of white power rock band Skrewdriver before his death in 1993.
Now the faces of dozens of people from Saturday’s counter demonstration against the anti-islamist group Pegida UK have been posted online under the ‘North East Reds’ section of the site.
Anyone can access the website as long as they agree to do so in the knowledge that it contains ‘potentially controversial‘ material intended for reference purposes and not unlawful activity.
In the North East Reds section, the site says that any information on ‘the freaks’ photographed at the Newcastle march would be gratefully received, along with a statement detailing a desire to increase activity in the region.
Redwatch gained nationwide notoriety in 2006, when Alec McFadden, a long-term union activist from Merseyside, was repeatedly stabbed in the face in his doorway – his picture and home address had been published on the site.
However, Newcastle Councillor Dipu Ahad, who helped organise the Newcastle Unites march, disagrees.
He received numerous threats over social media before the march, including one threatening him with beheading.
“It’s all about intimidation, whether it’s through threats of beheading on twitter or being named on this site.
“They’re trying to keep mouths shut and the police need to deal with this.
“Anybody who spots themselves or anyone they know on that site should report it to the police immediately.”
Source – Northern Echo, 03 Mar 2015
Councillor and anti-racism campaigner Dipu Ahad received vile online beheading threats in the hours leading up to demonstrations on Tyneside.
Police are today probing pictures tweeted to the Elswick ward representative.
The images show Coun Ahad’s face superimposed onto the body of a man kneeling before a masked knifeman, as if he was about to be decapitated.
They were posted on Twitter just hours before German anti-Islam group Pegida held its first UK demonstration in Newcastle, alongside a counter-march by Newcastle Unites.
Coun Ahad said the author of the post had since apologised to him via Twitter after receiving condemnation by other users of the social media site.
And he has vowed not to let the troll’s actions put him off standing up for what he believes in.
But the father has admitted he is now living in constant fear for the safety of himself and his family.
Coun Ahad said:
“This was a direct threat on my life. I fear for my physical safety every day now. I’m always looking over my shoulder. But I’m not going to stop fighting for what is right. I’m not going to be intimidated.”
Muslim Coun Ahad, a life-long campaigner against racism and intolerance, was busy putting the finishing touches to Newcastle Unites’ march plans when the picture surfaced on Friday evening.
It appears to be an image of a masked Islamic State fighter holding a large knife above a hostage in an orange T-Shirt, with the councillor’s face photoshopped on to the condemned victim’s body.
Coun Ahad reported the incident to police immediately and officers are now investigating, while taking steps to look after the safety of Coun Ahad and his family.
“When my cat jumps around at night now I have to get up and check there is no one there,” he said.
“I’m more scared for my family’s safety than I am for my own. Every time I go out I am very cautious, I’m always on edge now.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said:
“At 7.20pm on Friday police received information regarding a malicious communication having been received via a social media site. Enquiries are ongoing and steps were taken to ensure the safety of those concerned.”
And Coun Ahad said Saturday’s events have confirmed his belief that he must continue to stand-up to hatred and prejudice, even if it means putting himself at risk.
“It is getting to the point now where you wonder whether it will ever stop,” he said.
“But I now believe it will only stop either if I shut my mouth, or if I’m dead. This is obviously just part of my life now.
“Saturday was absolutely amazing. So many people came together from different groups. It was so humbling. I’m so passionate about our communities.
“Getting threatened is not going to stop me. At least this has started a conversation and it’s opened up communication.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Mar 2015
A trade union has accused police of carrying out a “witch hunt” in connection with a long-running dispute over the building of a Teesside power plant.
The GMB union claims its members were “targeted for questioning” and a member was visited by police at their home.
The criticism of Cleveland Police’s actions is linked to the union’s ongoing row with Sita Sembcorp over the levels of foreign workers used to build a £250m energy plant at Wilton.
The GMB union is seeking to know how the force learned the names and private mobile telephone numbers of union members.
It has also asked why a member was visited by officers at their home last Sunday to be questioned about a protest held at the Wilton industrial site on Monday.
Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer, said:
“The Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger needs to ask the police to answer some basic questions on this activity by the Cleveland Police on this protest over discrimination by Sita SembCorp against Teesside workers.
“We need to know who instigated this witch hunt, why were unemployed construction workers targeted for questioning, how the police got their names and private mobile telephone numbers and home addresses.
“Above all we need to know why Cleveland Police devote resources to targeting peaceful trade union protest rather than fighting criminal activity in the area.”
In response, Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts of Cleveland Police said:
“Officers were made aware of a number of posts on an open social media profile, which discussed protests planned at the Wilton site on the morning of Monday, February 23, and that this would potentially involve large numbers of protesters congregating at the entry and exit gates to the site.
“Police identified that the protest would coincide with rush hour and due to existing road works on the A174, that there would be substantial congestion.
“Public safety is paramount and with a site of this nature, there was an absolute need to ensure the ability of emergency service vehicles to enter and leave the site in the event of an emergency.
“In line with national best practice, officers from Cleveland Police openly sought to identify and engage with the organisers in advance, to explain the role of the force and open a dialogue to ensure the protest went ahead peacefully, lawfully and safely.
“This involved contact with one of the trade unions who were known to be connected to the dispute. They indicated that they were aware of the individual who appeared from social media to be organising the protest but that the protest had nothing to do with them.
“In order to establish a working dialogue with protesters, officers made direct contact with an individual via telephone, but having generated no response, the person was visited at his home address by an officer.
“There was no suggestion whatsoever that the right to protest would be improperly impeded, however, the individual was unforthcoming. To be clear the police had no knowledge of any current affiliation between this individual and the GMB trades union.
“As in all situations of this type, Cleveland Police’s role was to objectively and impartially balance the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest with the rights of affected businesses and members of the public to go about their lawful activities.
“Cleveland Police would very much welcome the engagement of GMB or any other trades union involved in the planning of any future protests, and would invite contact.”
Also responding to the comments, Cleveland Police and crime commissioner, Barry Coppinger said:
“I have not received any correspondence or complaint from the GMB or any other individual or organisation with regard to the matters reported in the local media.
“If I do receive such correspondence I will act appropriately.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 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 community campaigner has become an online sensation by using the power of song to vent his frustration at council decisions.
Hundreds of people have watched tracks that poke fun at Durham County Council, which were written and posted on the internet by comic singer and ukulele player Alan Prudhoe.
The retired local government officer was one of 2,700 people who objected to the demolition of the former Tudhoe Grange School in Spennymoor, County Durham.
They wanted Durham County Council and Spennymoor Learning Community Trust, which owns the site, to try to find a buyer to save the 1912 landmark brick building.
But both organisations said it was unlikely to sell whereas the cleared land would generate cash for education in the town so decided to press ahead with demolition, which is currently underway.
The authority said it would have cost £3m to repair Tudhoe Grange – the same figure it quoted to fix up five care homes it shut, the stately home and former school Windlestone Hall in Chilton which many believe was sold off cheap and the restoration of Wharton Park in Durham which is ongoing.
The 70-year-old, who worked for Durham County Council for more than 30 years, said:
“With the school we felt there was inadequate consultation and public opinion was ignored.
“I’ve lots of experience and feel as a public service the council is totally out of control, decisions about a huge turnover and lots of residents are made by too few officers and cabinet members.
“My songs are a means of communication, I’ve always used comedy to get a message across and this is a way of engaging people and venting my frustration.
“I never want to offend anyone, I don’t think the internet and social media are there to make personal attacks and I never sing anything I wouldn’t say to a person’s face.”
His council jibes are far from his first online musical hit, as there have been more than 5million viewings of his performances on YouTube and he has a significant following in Peru.
Durham County Council chose not to comment.
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Jan 2015
Plans to put a more positive spin on a North-East town ahead of the airing of the next series of Channel 4’s Benefits Street are underway.
TV company Love Productions chose Kingston Street in Stockton to film its second series of the popular Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall show, dubbed by some as “poverty porn“.
The next series is expected to air in March and Stockton Borough Council says it is expecting a less-than-flattering portrayal of the town.
Now businesses are throwing their weight behind a campaign to shine a positive light on Stockton.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign has a website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up for people to share photographs, videos and stories about the area.
Now, thanks to donations from local businesses, the best submissions will be rewarded in a monthly prize giveaway, the first of which is afternoon tea for four at Wynyard Hall.
Council leader Bob Cook said:
“We came up with this campaign to create a space where people can share their views on what they love about Stockton-on-Tees and we’ve been delighted with the response so far.
Mike McGrother, Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman, said:
“What has been lovely about the response so far is the overwhelming reaction from across the borough – and beyond.
“We may not have the revenues and reach of Love Productions – but what we will do in response is a much ‘lovelier’ production all round.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit:
or follow the campaign on Twitter @positivelySOT
Source – Northern Echo, 19 Jan 2015
> As one comment to this story said: “What on earth was someone with this kind of attitude doing with guns in the first place? Don’t the police investigate fully the background of applicants before allowing a licence ?”
Police have seized a number of guns from the North-East man who posted a decapitated fox head on his Facebook page.
His actions sparked fury amongst animal lovers who set up a page demanding to have him kicked off the social media site.
They also called on the police and RSPCA to investigate the incident.
The man lives in the Hartlepool area and a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said that their enquiries are continuing.
She added: “Officers have seized a number of legally-held firearms from a 44-year-old male and we are looking into his suitability to continue as a firearms licence holder.”
The RSCPA is also looking in to the matter.
The grisly photograph posted online this week showed a fox’s bloody head impaled on a spike, along with an offensive message aimed at anti-hunt protestors.
It was apparently posted in response to anti-hunt campaigners and others who had complained about previous photographs of dead animals uploaded to Facebook by the man.
The group set up calling for him to be banned from the social networking site attracted more than 4,500 supporters in a matter of days.
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Jan 2015