‘Pegida not welcome here!’ Newcastle counter-protest to reject ‘twisted prejudice’
A counter-demonstration is expected to attract more than 2,000 people, according to local newspaper reports.
Public figures, including George Galloway MP and comedian Russell Brand, are expected to speak at the anti-Pegida march.
Newcastle police say they are prepared for an influx of people hours before the city’s football match kicks off, as Newcastle United play Aston Villa at St. James’ Park.
Pegida, which translates from German as Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamization Of The West, has staged rallies throughout Germany and drawn thousands to the streets, both in support of its aims and to oppose it.
In Newcastle, the counter-demonstration has been organized by a coalition of trade unionists and anti-fascists, including Newcastle Stop the War and the University and College Union (UCU), protesting under the banner “Newcastle Unites.”
Newcastle resident David Kelly, 33, said he will join the counter-protest.
“We don’t want these people in our city. They don’t belong here. We are a friendly, tolerant and welcoming place,” he told the Newcastle Chronicle.
David Stockdale, a Labour Party councilor in the city, said he will also be joining the anti-fascists.
“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,” he told the Chronicle.
“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,” he added.
Speaking to RT on Wednesday, Labour councilor Dipu Ahad said: “There’s no chance for them in Newcastle.”
“The city is united [and] we’ve got national support. There was a clear message Pegida are not welcome. Our campaign has done a really good job showing unity, we’ve exposed them for who they are.”
Social media users also expressed solidarity with the marchers. Animal rights campaigner Jon Proctor tweeted: “Come oppose the Islamophobic group PEGIDA holding a rally in Newcastle.”
— Jon Proctor (@Jon_Proctor92) February 26, 2015
Twitter user @catsinbelfry, who describes herself a socialist and feminist on her profile page, tweeted: “Support us against PEGIDA UK! Retweet #NewcastleUnites tomorrow from 10.00 as we march for unity in our city. #nopegida.”
— Mistress 9 danke (@catsinbelfry) February 27, 2015
When RT contacted Pegida UK for comment on the planned counter-demonstration, they replied: “Because of the time issue, being so early, numbers might not be so high!”
“We don't need a gigantic following! Want to keep it any control! [sic],” they added.
Rumors circulated earlier in the week that Pegida UK’s spokesperson, Matthew Pope, had resigned.
The organization has since denied this, saying: “He hasn't resigned. He is taking a break from the media.”