|News that the English Defence League (EDL) is proposing a provocative and divisive march in South Shields on March 18th has been met with deep local concern. South Tyneside Unite Against Fascism has been formed for a second time (the first in 2013) by local people, trade unionists and political groups and organisations opposed to targeting our communities with racism and Islamophobia. We aim to draw attention to the threat posed by the EDL whose only intention in coming to South Shields is to try and intimidate and persecute the Muslim community in our town.
The excuse for the EDL demonstration is a targeted attack against a family who live in the town in response to a spitting incident involving a small child and a local man with mental health issues. It is thus a deliberately targeted attack of religious persecution that is personally directed at a local Muslim family but which is clearly an attack on all of us. Given the specific personal and religious targeting of this demonstration and its potential for racially aggravated intimidation and violence we strongly feel that there are legal grounds to prevent it taking place - something the authorities have so far refused to do. South Tyneside Unite Against Fascism has written to the police to demand that this march be stopped but they have so far refused.
The march has been routed right around the centre of South Shields and is a serious provocation to the peace loving minority communities who have for decades lived there in harmony with their neighbours. Historians trace the Arab community in South Shields back to 1100AD. Certainly, Muslims originating from the Middle East, Africa and Asia have settled here for more than 100 years. Today, this community of working people, seamen, and small businesses is fully integrated into the makeup of South Shields. More broadly South Tyneside has many health and public service workers who originate from minority communities and from abroad who serve the people of the borough. This march is a deep affront and provocation to all of these people.
This is an area in which Catherine Cookson wrote some of her most famous novels which reflect people's condemnation of racism and religious discrimination. No organisation can be allowed to attack people's right to exist and this march is something that should not be allowed in a civilised, modern society.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Unites said: “This demonstration by the EDL goes against the whole democratic tradition and values of the people of South Tyneside and the north east, which uphold the rights of all people and their communities. South Tyneside Unite Against Fascism has organised a peaceful and orderly counter demonstration to defend the rights of all against this attack on our communities – we are one race the human race! Join us to show solidarity and send a clear message to the EDL that the people of South Tyneside and the northeast will not accept the incitement of racial, or religious hatred against our communities.”
Counter Protest against the EDL.
Assemble at South Shields Town Hall
1.30pm Saturday March 18th.