A rally of thousands of anti-fascists, trade unionists and faith representatives countered the first UK demonstration by a far-right group against the “Islamisation of Europe” on Saturday, forming a counter-protest four times as large.
Pegida UK held its first event in Newcastle with some 375. The group, whose name translates as “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”, was formed in Dresden last year and has held regular marches there. A demonstration in the German city in January drew 25,000, but it is thought that recent marches have mustered as few as 2,000.
Dipu Ahad, a local councillor and one of the organisers of the Newcastle Unites event, thanked Pegida for highlighting how united people in Newcastle are. “They’re a confused bunch of people. They think Newcastle is an easy target, but it’s not,” he said. There were people of all walks of life countering the Anti-Islam protests; men, women, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs”.
Tony Dowling, another organiser, said to Pegida demonstrators: “It’s a simple message: you’re not welcome here. Get off our streets and go home.”
MP’s such as George Galloway, Chi Onwurah and other politicians and faith leaders were there to show support and give speeches.
Chi Onwurah MP said: “If you come here with hatred in your hearts, if you come here to spread fear and division, if you come here to tell us that our Muslim brothers and sisters are not a great positive part of this city, then I have a message for you – and that is: get out of our city.”
Event organiser Tony Dowling rejected PEGIDA’s arguments that they are not ‘racist or anti-immigration’. “They say they’re not far-right, but that they’re against the ‘Islamification of the west’, which is a bizarre thing to say. It’s weasel words. If you’re anti-Islam, you’re a racist. End of story.”
Members of the Muslim community marched, including Kezra Shakir, 31, who had made her own banner with “Peace” written in different languages. She said groups like Pegida made it more difficult to live as a Muslim in the UK. “I live with this fear every day. I have two young sons, two and four, and we gave them Arabic names.
“I worry for them. I worry for the way they may be treated.”
(Source: Dominic Smith, The Guardian)