Pegida UK falls flat: Newcastle counter-demo outnumbers anti-Islamists by 5-to-1

The anti-Pegida counter-demonstration in Newcastle (Photo: Naveed Aslam)

Fewer than 300 people turned up in Newcastle for the first-ever rally of anti-Islamist group Pegida in the UK, while at least 1,500 gathered to protest the demo, just hundreds of yards away.

“We are here because nobody else who should be talking about
the problems in this country is talking about them,”
Pegida’s keynote speaker, Paul Weston, from the far-right Liberty
GB party, to an audience that mostly comprised white middle-aged
men holding Union Jacks.

“Although there are moderate Muslims in the country, Islam is
not a religion of peace.”

To uncoordinated cheers from the wind-battered crowd, speakers
aired their grievances against Muslims, citing UK-raised ISIS
recruits, such as executioner Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi
John, and the failure of police and local government in Rotherham
to investigate Pakistani gangs that groomed hundreds of girls
over a period of more than 15 years.

Speakers insisted that Pegida, inspired by demonstrations that
began in Germany last year, was not a political movement, but a
public awareness group that wanted to “open up public

There was a heavy security presence, with mounted police watching
the entirely peaceful demonstration impassively, alongside an
international media contingent.

The anti-Pegida counter-demonstration in Newcastle (Photo: Naveed Aslam)

Several hundreds of yards away, a much larger
counter-demonstration gathered, which united trade unionists,
Muslims, socialist anti-fascists and community groups.

A drum circle was set up at the heart of the crowd, as
demonstrators chanted “Pegida are not welcome here!”

The anti-Pegida counter-demonstration in Newcastle (Photo: Naveed Aslam)

After a short march, the crowd, which organizers claim numbered
up to 3,000, gathered before a platform where they were addressed
by left-wing MP George Galloway, who attracted the most media
attention throughout, Newcastle United footballer Moussa Sissoko,
and local Labour MP Chi Onwurah.

“I wish this wasn’t necessary. What we’d like is for Pegida
to have not picked our great city to march in,”

“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from
across the political spectrum and including many football fans,
turn out really shows Newcastle is united against these

Onwurah said it would be “obscene” if a single person
had their Muslim beliefs shaken by the Pegida demonstration.

As the speeches finished, the two crowds were funneled away by
the police, but did end up about 100 yards from each other.
Several demonstrators on both sides began to shout slogans
through a heavy police presence.

Five people were arrested after what appeared to be a series of
minor scuffles.

UK’s Pegida has been modeled on the marches in Germany that began
in October in Dresden, and gathered over 25,000 for their
best-attended weekly demonstrations, before numbers fell off as
the group’s leadership found itself mired in controversy.

UK’s Pegida was organized mostly by members of far-right street
movement English Defence League (EDL), which also focuses on an
anti-immigrant agenda, and other marginal groups.

Newcastle was chosen as it was the site of the two best-attended
EDL marches in 2010 and 2013. Organizers say they will stage
their next anti-Islamization protest in London.

The anti-Pegida counter-demonstration in Newcastle (Photo: Naveed Aslam)

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