Newcastle Unites says Pegida chose the wrong city for Anti-Islamic March

Members of the Newcastle Unites counter march believe anti-Islamic group Pegida chose the wrong city to start off its apparent UK expansion.

Pegida is a German right-wing political movement that claims to be against the “Islamification” of Europe. Following a number of marches in its founder country, the group decided Newcastle would be the host of its next event.

However, members of Newcastle Unites said the diversity of the area was underestimated as the group saw a huge counter-march against them in the city’s centre.

Police believe around 2,375 people attended the two events on February 28 – 375 at the Pegida event and 2000 at the Newcastle Unites demonstration.

Matthew Giles, part of the organising team for Newcastle Unites, said: “Newcastle has a proud history of standing up for what is right.

“Newcastle University gave Martin Luther King Jr, the only honorary degree when he was still alive and gave Nelson Mandela the Freedom of the City while the government still called him a terrorist.

“Apparently the reason Pegida UK decided to launch themselves in Newcastle is because of our relatively small Muslim/Asian population compared to down south, where they thought they would meet more resistance.

“They didn’t realise links between the Muslim community and other groups are very strong up here and have been built over a number of years; being involved in campaigns against austerity and supporting the people of Palestine. So it was fairly easy to gain the support and numbers to pull something off like last weekend.”

One member of the North-East muslim community, Haneen Al-Saffar, said the counter march made her proud.

“It’s really good to know that so many people are supporting Islam and standing up for what they believe in,” she said.

“There is definitely more tolerance towards diversity in the North-East otherwise there wouldn’t have been as much support.”

Five people were arrested as part of the policing operation that police claim were for isolated incidents within the city centre area.

Newcastle Chief Superintendent Laura Young said: “Both demonstrations passed without any problems and I’d like to thank people in Newcastle for their cooperation and support throughout.

“The vast majority of those that took part in today’s events were peaceful and both groups stuck to their agreed times, routes and plans.”

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