By Oliver Lane
Britain’s own chapter of counter-Islamisation group PEGIDA has got
the go ahead from police to hold its first demonstration in Newcastle
next Saturday, with speeches expected from organisers and anti-Islamism
speaker Paul Weston.
Speaking to Breitbart London, the leaders of PEGIDA UK said
they had learnt lessons from the experiences of other PEGIDA groups in
Europe, some of which have seen rapid growth, and others that have
failed to gain traction. The organisers said they had specifically
chosen Newcastle as a city which they felt would, like Dresden, be
receptive to their warnings of rapid Islamisation, and which was a
significant distance from the most active centres of English “political
correctness” to avoid violent counter-protests.
After weeks of negotiation, the group has now agreed with Northumbria
police to hold the march through the city of Newcastle. Although PEGIDA
UK, as they are known, had originally requested permission to march
through the city in the evening they have instead been given an early
morning slot, owning to a clash with a major football match.
It is presently believed that while the PEGIDA demonstration will be
‘static’ and confined to the market place, a counter-protest organised
by ‘Newcastle Unite’ will be allowed to march.
Paul Weston, the leader of political party Liberty-GB has been
confirmed as a speaker at the event. He shot to national attention last
year when he was arrested on the front steps of Winchester Guildhall for
reading from a book by wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.
Quoting The River War, an autobiographical account of
Churchill’s experience of recapturing the Sudan published in 1899,
Weston read aloud: “Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture,
sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever
the followers of the Prophet rule or live.
“Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know
how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social
development of those who follow it.
“No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being
moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith”.
Despite Churchill having been voted the greatest ever Briton in a
public poll in 2002, Weston was charged with committing a ‘racially
aggravated crime’ for repeating his words in public. If convicted,
Weston could have faced two years in jail for reading in public, but the
charges were later dropped.
PEGIDA UK spokesman and co-organiser Matthew Pope told Breitbart London
they were going to great lengths to ensure the protest went off
peacefully, saying it would be a families and ordinary people with no
political background would be welcome to attend. Pope said: “The main
aim is to increase awareness about extreme Islam”, and said in vetting
speakers, PEGIDA UK had even taken advice from British Anti-Fascist
groups, to make sure no one with extremist links could hijack the event.
In a post on the official PEGIDA UK page, a statement read: “It has
been brought to our attention that a variety of self proclaimed extreme
right wing violent groups are planning to attend our demonstration… We
welcome everybody. No matter of political nor religious background… All
we ask is that people acknowledge our agenda of peaceful protest”.
“We would prefer it if the media published our views and principles
instead of linking us to other groups. I hope the members of these
various groups will respect our agenda”.
Pope also said he welcomed the local Muslim community, and people of
all faiths to join the demonstration, as he believes radical Islam was
every bit as bad for ordinary Muslims as anyone else. He said: “We would
like the Muslim community, if they actually stand by Britain and are
British, we urge them to stick with us and do this protest with us,
because the extreme elements of Islam affect everyone”.
Despite the offer, local media metroradio reports
the invitation for Newcastle’s different communities to join together
to reject extremism was rejected out of hand by a local Muslim community
leader, who said supporting the group would be a “paradox”.
When discussing the United Kingdom’s first PEGIDA event, we asked
Pope whether he thought there would be a repeat of events at PEGIDA
marches in Germany, which have seen extremely violent counter-protests
by left-wing anti-fascist groups. Although Pope said there would be
strong security at the event, and he hoped the counter-protesters
wouldn’t throwfireworks and glass bottles as they have in Berlin and
Leipzig, he did have some concerns.
Pope said there were some groups very strongly opposed to the
existence of PEGIDA, remarking “they seem to have a violent agenda, but
we want peace”.
“One of PEGIDA’s points of principle is freedom of speech, we don’t
want to stop any one else protesting or counter protesting”, said Pope.
Despite that, there have already been threats towards the group, and we
were told a number of potential volunteer organisers had already
withdrawn due to intimidation.
The German PEGIDA organisation has also seen a number of it’s
organisation committee resign over harassment. Former PEGIDA spokeswoman
and single mother of three Kathrin Oertel resigned her post in the
group earlier this month, complaining of constant threats and being
woken in the middle of the night by people climbing through her garden.
Police have reassured locals that despite fears, there shouldn’t be
any trouble on the day. Police Chief Superintendent Laura Young
said: “The organisers from both groups have assured us they do not want
any trouble and their intention is to hold peaceful protests before
moving on and we will act in a neutral capacity to facilitate this.
“There are other events taking place on that Saturday and the city
will be busy. I want to reassure people that there will be adequate
resources in place to deal with all of the events taking place that day.
“People often ask why we can’t ban protests. Police forces do not
have the power to ban a protest or the right to peaceful assembly. This
is a fundamental democratic right and is laid down in the European
Convention of Human Rights… Our priority is ensuring public safety and
minimum disruption to the local community.”