Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Happy Christmas everyone

Great message from Searchlight:

by Sonia Gable, 24 December 2012

Whatever Christmas means for you – the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, renewing ties with extended family, enjoyment of good food in the company of others, a rest from work or campaigning, TV specials, or just a lull before the winter sales – I hope you have a good one.

I have no hesitation in wishing you a happy Christmas rather than use a religiously neutral phrase. Recently published figures from the 2011 census reveal that 59% of people in England and Wales still describe themselves as Christian, though that is down by 13 percentage points since 2001. Of the 25% who have no religion, most celebrate Christmas in some form, as do many adherents of other religions. Celebrating Christmas is not to disrespect other religions and their festivals. The hugely diverse primary school where I am a governor marks all the main festivals celebrated by the religions represented among the children: Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas etc. Although Christians are a minority in the school, there was a nativity scene and Christmas tree in the reception area at the end of last term. Knowing and respecting one another’s beliefs is part of the children’s education.

I have no religion myself, but I found resonance in the words of Pope Benedict in an extract from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narrative reproduced in The Times on 22 December. Writing about the biblical narrative of the three Magi – wise men or kings – who journeyed to see the baby Jesus, he said: “In the kingdom of Jesus Christ there are no distinctions of race and origin. In and through the black king humanity is united, yet without losing any of the richness of variety.” The British National Party purports to be Christian, constantly wheeling out its fake reverend Robert West, but with racism at its core it is diametrically opposed to the principles of Christianity. Although the BNP often claims it is opposed to immigration because Britain is overcrowded and there aren’t enough jobs or houses, or on the ridiculous grounds that sharia will somehow be imposed on an unwilling majority that includes most British Muslims, the real reason is that the party hates the rich variety of humanity now represented in our country.

That core racism was apparent in the BNP leader’s Christmas message. Seated at a table set with a huge plate, wine glass, two Christmas crackers and a pair of china angels, a glass of what looked like whisky in front of him and his back to a wood-burning stove, Griffin claimed the BNP had had a good year (well it survived) but that London was difficult electorally because there are “very few of our people left” in the capital (my emphasis). He ended with the words “our country is in peril … our freedom and our very identity are in mortal danger”.

The BNP does not currently represent an electoral threat but it has not gone away, its revival at some stage cannot be ruled out and it has the potential, with its increasing number of street protests about which Griffin waxed lyrical in his Christmas message, to cause community tension. After our Christmas and New Year break, let’s come back with renewed vigour to ensure the BNP and its rivals remain in the gutters where they belong.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

WAN December news round-up

We Are Norwich, (WAN), is buoyed with the success of its counter demonstration against the far right racists of the EDL in November, and has not been resting on its laurels.

By tweets, email, and Facebook the group has maintained contact with its many members, and has agreed to keep going as a broad coalition of many different individuals and groups.  The main goals remain, that is, to to counter bigotry and social injustice, and to act locally where bigotry or social injustice seems to be an issue.
On 7th December some WAN members supported the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) by joining a demonstration "with placards, whistles and horns" outside the offices of Atos, St Mary's House, in Norwich.  Their goal was to raise awareness of how the Work Capability Assessment system and Atos are affecting disabled people, to protest the cuts to vital services, and to demand a rethink of this policy from the government.  DPAC claims that sick and disabled citizens have actually died after Atos has declared them "fit to work" and WAN wanted to be represented with those who speak up for those least able to defend themselves here in Norwich.
On the 8th December two WAN activists, including core member David Peel and keen activist Ellen Nierop (with her daughter), spent their work lunchtime making a peaceful protest in front of tax dodging Starbucks.  

After all, Starbucks and other international tax avoiders benefit from Britain's infrastructure, such as taxpayer-provided health care for employees and taxpayer-provided decent roads upon which to move their supplies, so it seems unjust not to contribute towards these costs, doesn't it? 

Ellen wrote: 
In solidarity with UK Uncut's day of protest against Starbucks tax avoidance, I asked if anyone was around for a spontaneous protest. Despite the short notice, David Peel turned up and we held a well supported and silently peaceful demonstration.

The placards we held highlighted their multi million pound corporate tax dodge, the fact that as a dinnerlady I have paid more UK tax in the last 3 years than they have, and they have a turnover of billions but contributed nothing to the economy, and that they have compounded the austerity we are all supposed to be "in together".

We had dozens of people agree or congratulate us on what we were saying, and several who turned away from the doors and asked to be redirected to local coffee shops.

The fact there were only two of us seemed to have a big impact, a majority of the public were with us and there were hundreds of people who read the placards and learned a bit more about what has been going on. Even if they made no comment I hope it made them think about what the corporations are doing. 
David added: 
This was one of the most quietly effective protests I have attended, for these reasons: We were not a big intrusive and disruptive presence, so we didn't intimidate anyone. We silently held up our placards instead of shouting slogans at people and that in turn gave people the confidence to come and talk to us, and the vast majority supported us and were angry at Starbucks.  It also meant the police left us alone - two officers passed us and didn't give us a second glance.  Three staff spoke to us, and we made it clear we were there for them too

A good day, and my thanks to Ellen for organising this and producing great placards, and to everyone who walked past, read them, and got the message.

Ellen's sweet little daughter would not be left out and made her own placard.  The letters translate phonetically as "people have to give money to peoples school (something) is not fair to steal money".  She wrote it herself based on Ellen's explanation of what they were going to do and why.  

The campaign to highlight rich tax dodgers, however, is far from won and continues.

You can act too.  For example, here is a petition from small bookshop owners Frances and Keith Smith, squeezed by tax-dodging Amazon.  Read through their argument, and decide for yourself whether to sign or not.

Then, finally for this month, on the 12th December WAN held a "really positive organising meeting" under the leadership of Nick O'Brien and Julie Bremner with "a very respectable turnout for a freezing Wednesday night just before Christmas".  The meeting listened to comments from the floor and the group suggestions that had been sent in earlier, and some plans for next year were discussed.

Thanks were given for all those who supported WAN on the crucial demonstration against the EDL march on Norwich in November, and for the continuing support for WAN, a local activist group intent on challenging bigotry and injustice in our neighbourhood.


Some links:

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
UK Uncut
Starbucks Actions Nationwide gallery
WAN - We Are Norwich

Monday, 17 December 2012

Is Norwich the 'least religious' or 'most honest'?

Census shows Norwich 'least religious city' in England and Wales

From the BBC by Jon Welch:

It was once said to have a church for every week of the year, not to mention a pub for every day.

It has two cathedrals and is said to have more standing medieval churches - 32 - than any city north of the Alps.

But the 2011 Census has revealed Norwich had the highest proportion of respondents in England and Wales reporting "no religion".

The city's figure was 42.5% compared with a figure of 25.1% for England and Wales as a whole.

The question was the only voluntary one in the census and 7.2% of people chose not to answer it.

The census found the Christian population of England and Wales had fallen by four million to 33.2 million in the past decade.

In Norwich 56,268 people reported having no religion, but the census revealed a wide range of groupings within that category.

There were 169 Spiritualists, 131 atheists and 783 said they were Jedi Knights, a reference to the Star Wars films.

Sixty-five people gave their affiliation as Heavy Metal.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, was sceptical about the census' findings.  He said: 
Norwich is a city of churches. They are around every corner.  It's also a centre of vibrant Christianity today.

The cathedral is seeing hundreds of worshippers every day during December and will welcome thousands on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
 He said there were many other large and growing churches in Norwich of all denominations - 
So it seems doubtful that Norwich is a less religious place than anywhere else in the country.

It would not have above-average churchgoing rates if that was the case.

But it may be a place where the vibrant presence of the churches means that people have to make up their minds about faith more definitely, and that's no bad thing.


The Bishop of Norwich is right, the people of Norwich are "making up their minds".  In this free thinking and creative City there are many ways to explore important questions rather than through traditional religions. 

Maybe it is because of our history.  Norwich has a past of unedifying religious excess, from the treatment of the Jewish community in the Middle Ages when Meir ben Elijah of Norwich complained “The land exhausts us by demanding payments, and the people’s disgust is heard”,  to the Lollards Pit where "Many a saint of God has breathed his last beneath that white precipice, bearing witness against Popish idolatry, midst flame and pitch; many a grisly procession has advanced… across the old bridge towards the Lollards hole . . .".  

Perhaps there is more honest doubt about the ambitions of organised religion here in Norwich than elsewhere in the country.  

Not sure how the Heavy Metal fits in, however.  Some Norwich people simply don't take "religion" questions seriously - 

Interested?  Try the following links:

Norwich Skeptics in the Pub 
Norfolk Humanists
National Secular Society
British Humanist Association 

Norwich Buddhist Centre
Norwich Pagan Moot

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Far right MEPs ineffectual - so far

From: Europe's extremist threat is criminal, not political

By Doug Sanders

As Europe enters its fifth year of economic trauma and choking unemployment, is it being overtaken by the politics of anger and hate?

To get a graphic understanding of the seriousness of this problem, you might start by visiting the Brussels-based European Parliament, as I did this week, and staring out across the semicircle of 754 seats.

Like the continent itself, the middle of the 27-nation assembly is dominated by a huge bloc of moderate conservatives – certainly the largest electoral beneficiaries of the economic turmoil – alongside a diminished slice of social democrats and wedges of Greens and Liberals. Several dozen ill-dressed Communists sit largely ignored on the far left.

What really grabs your attention is the noisy and ragtag group occupying a surprisingly large chunk of the hall’s far right. These right-wing extremists and ultra-nationalists take up as many as 120 seats, depending on how you count them.

Here you’ll find the three elected representatives from Hungary’s third-largest party, Jobbik, which attracted 16 per cent of the vote in the last national election. Or, rather, its two representatives, because the third was forced to quit the party this year after he discovered he was Jewish. That should give you some idea of the party’s political obsessions: At the moment, it’s in the midst of a very public campaign to expose the names of all “Israeli dual citizens” – that is, Jews – in government, because it considers them “security threats.”

Next to them, you’ll find members of other parties devoted to racial hatred and intolerance, including France’s National Front, for which almost one citizen in five cast a ballot in this year’s presidential election; the thuggish British National Party; and the Dutch Party for Freedom, whose immigrant-baiting leader Geert Wilders has recently declared that Slavs, as well as Muslims, should be declared undesirables.

You won’t yet find members of Golden Dawn, the Greek party that uses a modified swastika and unmodified physical violence to get across its message, or the Hungarian Guard, or Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD.

Staring across this terrain, you might be led to believe that recession-battered Europe is following the path it did in the 1930s.

But look again. After four years of economic turmoil, no extremist party has become either a governing or a major opposition party in any major country. Those hateful parties have failed to join forces and coalesce into anything meaningful (they tend to hate each other, too). Mr. Wilders was abandoned by voters in this year’s election, the National Front failed to capture the French imagination, and Scandinavian and Mediterranean movements have mainly peaked.

The real extremist threat is criminal, not political.

The real extremist threat is criminal, not political. Domestic anti-minority groups are now the largest violent threat in Europe, police agencies say, eclipsing jihadist terrorism by an order of magnitude. And some of them are joining forces – we saw this when Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-immigration terrorist who killed 77 Norwegians last year, wrote a letter from prison last month to the German neo-Nazi terrorist Beate Zsch├Ąpe, accused in the murders of 10 Turkish immigrants, declaring that “we are the first raindrops of the violent, cleansing storm closing in on Europe.”

That frightful prospect is painted in vivid detail in a new study of extremism published by the Budapest-based Athena Institute. It identifies 115 domestic extremist groups now active in Europe. Two-thirds are in Western Europe, a third are linked to political parties and three-quarters of them are right wing.

But most of them peaked long before the recession. The report notes:
Even though the 1990s were definitely an era of economic growth and prosperity for most in the Western Hemisphere, this era was also much more plagued by serious extremist attacks than the 2000s … There has been an increase in the number of people falling victim to extremist violence between 2006 and 2010, but those numbers stay far below the numbers we found in the 1990s.
This could be reassuring – as the report notes, it shatters “the myth of the Great Recession” and shows that extremism is no longer linked to wider economic or political conditions. But, on another level, that makes it more disturbing: It means that even after Europe fixes its economy, it won’t have dealt with this simmering threat.

These extremists have made many parts of Europe dangerous for religious and racial minorities. As governments get their economic houses in order, they should also stop being complacent about this grave threat to their harmony.



What exactly have the two British far right MEPs achieved for Britain in the past few years?  What have they done for their constituents? 

Nothing I can think of, apart from trying and failing to wangle more EU money their way, quarrelling so bitterly that Brons left the BNP, and the absurdity of climate change denier Nick Griffin enjoying a jolly at taxpayers expense attending a climate change conference.

Wasted votes for wasted space in the EU Parliament.

See also:
Germany Moves Closer to Banning Far-Right Party
France asks European Parliament to lift Le Pen immunity
Police close neo-nazi e-shop (in Czech Republic)
Hungary: political fight over resurgent fascism
Anti-Islam protesters in Norway greeted with shouts of 'no Nazis on our streets'
Europeans March against Neo-Nazi Threat in Athens
Raising the issue of fascism in Spain

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Racist gesture against Norwich player leads to arrest

From BBC News:

A Swansea City fan has been arrested over allegations of racial abuse towards a Norwich player at the Liberty Stadium, the club has confirmed.

Sebastien Bassong (right) scored Norwich's second goal
in their 4-3 victory away to Swansea
Norwich manager Chris Hughton said a racial gesture had been made towards Cameroon international defender Sebastien Bassong during Saturday's Premier League match.

Police confirmed a man had been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence.

Swansea City lost the match 4-3.

The incident allegedly happened after Robert Snodgrass scored the visitors' fourth goal in the 77th minute.

Bassong indicated to referee Howard Webb that he had been the victim of a racist gesture as he celebrated the goal with his teammates.

Webb referred the complaint to the fourth official and a male fan was then arrested.  A Swansea spokesperson said:
There was an incident after Norwich's fourth goal. Sebastien Bassong made the referee aware there was a racist gesture towards him from a Swansea City fan.

Within 10 minutes of the report, the stewards had got hold of the TV footage, replayed it, identified the alleged person in question and within that period, he was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence.

The matter is with the police, but from the club's point of view, we abhor racism and we have worked hard over the years to make this a family club.

We will look into it and a further statement will follow in due course.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Norwich manager Chris Hughton said:
What I've been made aware of is that there was a gesture made towards Bassong.

I have spoken to Seb and I know what the situation is, but Swansea dealt with it in the correct manner. It's now in the hands of the authorities.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said he had been unaware of the incident.  He said:
I was concentrating on the game so I don't know anything.

I don't know anything about it but it's a thing we don't want in a game, not here and not anywhere.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Soldier/War Artist Doug Farthing in Norwich

Douglas Farthing at Mandell's Gallery, Elm Hill:


Doug Farthing’s art is intense and sometimes raw. His expressionist style is well suited to the moments and moods of combat, as well as ‘everyday’ situations on the ground, on patrol, driving or walking among civilians. As a soldier, Doug was trained to observe everything around him, to see and interpret every face, action and the environment at all times – it could have an impact on what he should do next. At times his survival, and that of his comrades, depended upon his response. A sergeant major in 2 Para, Doug was decorated for his part in operations around Kabul in 2002.

Partroopers drop before the storm

This acute perception now serves him well as an artist – alert to the tensions as well as the beauty of life, his work is never ‘off duty’, even back in East Anglia. Instead his paintings share these moments with the viewer. As he says, ‘I’m always drawn back to that piece of ground, that unseen danger, where there may be an enemy sniper hiding’.

Soldiers on a 'WMIK' patrolling the outskirts of Kabul

‘Comfort Zone’ is Doug Farthing’s artistic response to the more recent experiences of his extraordinary army career, which spanned Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, and his work on the northwest frontier since. The show’s title refers not to the comfort zone of civvy street, away from risk and hardship. Instead, it means military life - which, despite the high-octane existence, represents a focussed, disciplined understanding of the hardest aspects of life, and an exceptional camaraderie driven by shared experiences of danger. From this ‘zone’, Doug has provided a glimpse of the moments of truth. JENNY SPENCER-SMITH (National Army Museum)

Douglas Farthing's exhibition at Mandell's Gallery December 8th - 29th 2012 is fund raising for the Parachute Regiment Charity 

More details and direction at   
Tel 01603 626892

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

EDL leader charged

EDL Leader charged with mortgage fraud

From EDL News:

As far as 30th birthdays go, being sat in prison and finding out you are charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud, is not one of the best of them and could ensure he spends his 31st, if not, his next few birthdays in prison if convicted.

Bedfordshire police released a statement this morning listing charges of those thought to have been involved.

Bedfordshire Police, on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, have charged the following people in connection with a fraud investigation.

Stephen VOWLES, age 24, of Heron Drive, Luton has been charged with:

2 x Conspiracy to commit Fraud by False Representation in relation to a Mortgage Application – Contrary to S1 Fraud Act 2006

2 x False accounting – Contrary to S17 Theft Act 1968

Possession with intent to supply class A Drug, Cocaine - Contrary to S4 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Concerned in the supply of class A drugs to another – Contrary to S4 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Money Laundering – Transfer of criminal property – Contrary to S327 POCA 2002
- Neil GOODWIN, age 28, of Chalkdown, Luton was charged with:

Possession of criminal property – Contrary to S329 POCA 2002

- Lisa MOORE, age 26 – of Newbury Close, Silsoe was charged with:

Conspiracy to commit Fraud by False Representation in relation to a Mortgage Application – Contrary to S1 Fraud Act 2006

False Accounting – Contrary to Section 17 Theft Act 1968

- Anjee DARCY, age 30 – of Hardwick Green, Luton was charged with:

2 x Conspiracy to commit Fraud by False Representation in relation to a Mortgage Application – Contrary to S1 Fraud Act 2006

False accounting – Contrary to S17 Theft Act 1968

- Elliott GALE, age 28 – Anglian Close, Watford

Money Laundering – Transfer of criminal property – Contrary to S327 POCA 2002

- Stephen LENNON, age 30 - HMP Wandsworth, was charged with:

3 x Conspiracy to commit Fraud by False Representation in relation to a Mortgage Application – Contrary to S1 Fraud Act 2006

Sunday, 25 November 2012

More fallout from EDL failure in Norwich

Essex EDL Fractures

From Hope not Hate by Simon Cressy:

Paul Pitt with Mark Dunbar

Is this the beginning of the end for the Essex EDL division ?
All is not well in what was one of the EDL’s most active areas with the division appearing to fracture in a three way split along political lines.

On one side of the barricades is the Essex regional organiser, Paul Pitt aka Paul Prodromou. Pitt has recently linked up with the controversial former BNP fundraiser Jim Dowson and his political party “Britain First”. Dowson hopes to launch his own street movement called the “St George’s Brigade” with Pitt possibly playing a leading role.

On the other side of the fence is Mark Dunbar, Witham organiser for British Freedom and longstanding EDL activist.

There has been a long running feud between Dunbar and Pitt following the promotion of Pitt to the position of Eastern regional organiser.Dunbar has accused Pitt of having a massive ego (Probably a fair comment) following the creation of an EDL banner with Paul Pitts face and name emblazoned on it.

The conflict intensified following the recent EDL demo in Norwich. Dunbar criticized Pitt after large numbers of Essex and Kent EDL failed to attend the demo despite Pitt being the regional organiser for the area. Threats were exchanged between the two with Pitt telling Dunbar “I know where you live”.

Dunbar, who is close to the highly influential East Anglian Division led by Anthony Bamford is now promising to walk away from the EDL following the incident, which will see a number of EDL activists possibly follow him after constant reports of Pitts bullying manner and narcissism.

With the feud getting out of hand, a number of Essex EDL activists have recently aligned themselves to the National Front, despite the EDL leadership’s contempt for the veteran fascist party.

EDL stalwarts Diane and Eddie Scrimshaw took part in the NF’s march to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. Joining them was EDL activist Al Francis and the Essex based EDL tattooist Andy InkTattoo along with several other EDL members.

With some Essex EDL members also flirting with the BNP in the area it appears the division could potentially tear itself apart in the near future.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Another EDL humiliation

Kevin Carroll suffers massive defeat at PCC polls

From EDLNews:

Kevin Carroll suffered a massive defeat at the polls last night as Bedfordshire took to the booths to vote for a new Police and Crime Commissioner.

Carroll, also de facto leader of the English Defence League was the only far right candidate standing in Bedfordshire.

Carroll in happier days
Carroll has already claimed that his election campaign would have been fairer had it taken place in 'Zimbabwe or China.' according to an interview.

Carroll's election campaign had been a disaster from the start after he was arrested and bailed for 'conspiracy to commit a public nuisance' the day after he put his £5,000 deposit done. His arrest was in connection with an alleged plot to transport 53 balaclava clad English Defence League thugs to a mosque in the back of a furniture removal van which saw former leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson remanded in prison on various charges, one of which was illegal entry to the United States with Carroll.

If this was not a wake up call that suggested his election campaign was not quite on the right tracks, he took to his Facebook page to label a large number of his potential electorate 'backward savages'. This would, of course, refer to the Muslim community after he took umbrage at their Eid celebrations.

A few days later he was surprised and outraged that someone had taken it on themselves to paint a Hitler moustache on him on his billboard poster accompanied by a swastika. Carroll took to the streets in the early morning to paint over them which made him look like he had a bad lop sided 'porn star' moustache and a dirty shirt.

The British Freedom Party were then outraged after the billboards were taken down.

His last faux pas was turning up at a remembrance service in Luton uninvited. Due to lack of awareness in his actual importance he decided to stand amongst some serving troops and cadets and fell into line with them when they were called to attention.

He then found himself in the middle of a march and he shuffled awkwardly along with them with no exit strategy.

If that was not bad enough, he allegedly told a green party activist and disabled man that he would jail him if he won the PCC, due to his political views.

Fears that a low turnout would let him in through the backdoor were unfounded after Bedfordshire overwhelmingly told Carroll that his far right politics were not welcome in the country. Carroll's claims that he speaks for the 'silent majority' no longer hold water and the British Freedom Party have learnt an expensive lesson.

This endorsement from the incarcerated EDL leader probably did not help Carroll, as HOPE not hate reports:

Criminal thug backs PCC candidate

posted by: Matthew Collins | on: Thursday, 15 November 2012, 10:30
Lennon: Thug backs thug 
Lennon: Thug backs thug

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A salute from Sir Garnet

We Are Norwich

From Sir Garnet:

A strange day on Saturday for those of us in the city centre. We had been warned all week by the police and authorities that the EDL march had been planned, and that we should get prepared.

Between us and the other pubs in the city centre it was all becoming a nuisance. The busiest day of the week and suddenly we were having to contemplate closing so that a bunch of hysterical hooligans could march through the city daubed in the St George’s flag like some scene from ‘Football Factory’.

The English Defence League were to walk from Castle Mall gardens to City Hall where they would face (through barriers) the opposition group “We are Norwich”. The more you started to read about the affect that the EDL have had in disrupting other cities, the more you started to feel concern.
A dark cloud had suddenly formed and the social networking sites had suddenly opened floodgates for the eyes of the EDL to suss out how much affect they were having in stirring things here. Suddenly tweets were flying around from followers you didn’t want….

So the plan was to just stay put, keep quiet, and try not to stir anything up until they had left and we felt it safe to open the doors and carry on as normal.

As I arrived in the morning the “We are Norwich” crowds had begun to accumulate in Chapelfield and were moving towards City Hall. Despite the foul weather, there was an incredible family feel. Children getting stuck in, everyone from the Pride organisation to various religious groups. Everyone chatting with one another. I was amazed by how many had turned out.
The police presence was extraordinary. I’ve never known anything like it. We got in to the pub and went to the balcony to look at what was going on. Later than planned, a gigantic roar emerged and a lot of police flashing lights became visible from Guildhall Hill. Kettled by a sea of luminous yellow, the EDL came to their meeting point and began their speeches.
There was something eerie about watching it unfold. Particularly in front of the building which Hitler had designated to be his Eastern headquarters should he have succeeded in the war!

But to watch them face the crowd on the other side, a crowd stronger not only in size but clearly in intellect and love made you feel utterly defiant. I suddenly realised I should have had a great big “We are Norwich” flag draped from the windows or something…

Despite the loss of trade there was something necessary about Saturday to remind us how lucky we are to live here. A city thriving with all walks of life.

As someone who has never succumbed to bullies, I am furious that in many ways I did to some extent on Saturday by closing to begin with. How dare they command that? I won’t even be shutting on my wedding day!

We opened again at 4pm to a charming crowd, buzzing with tales of the day.

To all those who were part of, and organised the anti-protest under the banner “We are Norwich” you have my utter respect and thorough gratefulness that you exist in this city. Thank you.

photos by Sir Garnet
thought on “We Are Norwich……”

Jenny Hartt said:

I agree! The banner carried by a small child in the We Are Norwich anti-protest said it all for me – ‘Be Kind’.  I was humbled to see how many people were willing to oppose the fascists.
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
John Stuart Mill, from the Inaugural Address delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867
Photo by "HelenofNorwich" Simpson

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Adieu EDL

This is what passes as a national EDL demo

From Malatesta:

The EDL in Norwich
Not many could be bothered
Drunk, dazed and confused
EDL 150 - Anti-fascists 1500


Praise for Norwich

Praise for Norwich following marches: ‘It was great that so many people turned out to show the EDL that it is not welcome in our city’

From Norwich Evening news24 by David Freezer and Mark Shields  November 12, 2012:

People in Norwich have been praised for the way they responded and reacted to the controversial English Defence League march.

The centre of Norwich came to a standstill on Saturday as nearly 2,000 people gathered at the front of City Hall to protest.

A crowd of 1,500 people from community, faith and political groups took to the streets under the collective banner of We Are Norwich in protest at the EDL’s decision to march through the city, setting off from Chapelfield Gardens.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, around 250 EDL supporters arrived in buses and trains at Norwich railway station before gathering in Castle Gardens to make their way to City Hall, where they were met with loud boos and whistles by We Are Norwich supporters.

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur praised the reaction from the people of the city, and the police for ensuring a peaceful day.

She said:

It was great that so many people turned out to show the EDL that it is not welcome in our city.

We are delighted Norwich remained open for business and that the demonstrations passed off peacefully. The police did an excellent job.
Norwich’s policing commander, Superintendent Paul Sanford, said he was pleased overall with the major police operation which kept the peace on Saturday, which featured around 400 officers from 11 constabularies.

Police yesterday charged three men following disturbances sparked by the marches.

Supt Sanford said:

I’m really pleased with the outcome and I’m really proud of my officers for dealing so well with a situation that was really challenging at times.

We had two groups who vociferously wanted to make their point and we allowed them to do so with only a few outbreaks of disturbance.

I would like to thank the public for being so patient, as were businesses, and I’m sorry for any disruption they had to cope with.

There were big crowds that formed outside of the two protest groups who were just interested to see what was happening, larger than we expected there to be, but I’m pleased that remained peaceful as well.

Every last officer played an important part in the operation and the mounted section on Gaol Hill in particular were fantastic in controlling the crowds.
The day was punctuated occasionally by minor scuffles, with police delaying the arrival of the EDL march group by nearly an hour following a disturbance on Castle Meadow.

They finally set off on a slow march at 1.30pm and got to City Hall just before 2pm, where speaker Glen Saffer urged the crowd to remain calm and ensure a peaceful protest.

The spectacle was watched by hundreds of onlookers going about their normal Saturday-afternoon shopping.

Chants of “EDL go home” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” could be heard across the heavily-policed neutral zone in front of City Hall, to which Mr Saffer replied: “We will never surrender”.

The EDL took the decision to march in Norwich in protest at Norwich City Council’s decision to ban Rev Alan Clifford, from the Norwich Reformed Church from his stall in Hayhill, for allegedly publishing anti-Islamic leaflets.

Julia Angelcynn, from a charity called The Steadfast Trust, which states on its website it works “specifically for the ethnic English community”, referred to City Hall as “the Kremlin” in her address to the crowd.  
She added: 
The people in this building behind me seem very anti-freedom of speech.
At 2.30pm, and to a chorus of boos, whistles and waves, the EDL marchers were escorted by police back to waiting buses and trains at Norwich station.

With crowds having formed along Gaol Hill, the horses of the mounted division from Essex Constabulary were used to ensure no further trouble could break out.

The EDL supporters were allowed to disperse down Prince of Wales Road, but a continued police presence separated the EDL and We Are Norwich groups.

A final altercation outside the Natwest Bank in Prince of Wales Road brought 20 officers sprinting to intervene.

Nick O’Brien, secretary of We Are Norwich, said he was delighted with the group’s response to the EDL.

We are Norwich said that we would prevent the EDL getting to the steps of City Hall and the war memorial – we did.

We said that we would build a massive and broad coalition to oppose them – we did.

We said that we would be peaceful, family-friendly but loud and determined – we were.
He said the formation of We Are Norwich was a “beacon of light and hope” for positive action, and pledged the group would continue to oppose the EDL.
We Are Norwich will stay together for as long as we are needed. The EDL will never be welcome here.

Photos by Barbara

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Three men charged after marches in Norwich

From the Norwich Evening News by Mark Shields:

Three men arrested during yesterday’s marches in Norwich have been charged, and another man cautioned.

Four arrests were made during yesterday’s march to City Hall by the English Defence League and counter-march by the We Are Norwich group.

Around 400 officers from 11 police forces were drafted in as part of a large-scale operation to ensure the protests passed off peacefully.

Scott Maddox, 22, of *****, Norwich, was charged with possession of an offensive weapon, namely a form of baton. He has been bailed to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on November 30.

Darrell Copeland, 45, of *****, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, was charged with using threatening words or behaviour, and has been bailed to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on November 26.

Matthew Berryman, 28, of ******, Norwich, was also charged with using threatening words or behaviour, and has been bailed to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on November 27.

A 44-year-old man from Telford, Shropshire, who was arrested on suspicion of assault was later cautioned for a public order offence.

Historic Day

From We Are Norwich:

Saturday 10th November was an historic day as over 1500 anti-racists came out to tell members of the English Defence League (EDL) that they are not welcome in Norwich.  We are Norwich – a group formed in response to the EDL’s planned visit to the city began with small, simple campaign stalls, manned by a couple of activists at Norwich Pride and at the Kick Racism out of Football event at Morrisons towards the start of summer and has grown steadily into a rainbow coalition of over 25 affiliated groups.

Our day began at Chapelfield Gardens where over 20 different people, representing a range of political parties, faith groups and community groups spoke from the bandstand – sending clear messages as to why, in the eyes of their supporters and members, the EDL is not welcome.  Speakers included Clive Lewis from Norwich Labour Party, Samir Jeraj from the Green Party, Jack Brinded and Josh Bowker from UEA Union of Students, a large group from the Norwich Progressive Jewish Community and Michelle Savage and Mike Stonard from the Norwich Pride Collective. We were also joined on the day by Chloe Smith MP for Norwich North and a large group from the Norwich Quakers.

This was clearly a very broad coalition opposed to the EDL and their message of hate, despite claims from the EDL that we are only “lefty freaks and Muslims”.  Jo Rust from Kings Lynn Trades Council said:
We sent a clear message that their hateful and divisive politics are not tolerated in Norfolk.
Helen McGuinness from the National Union of Teachers said:
If we allow this language of hatred to seep into one classroom, that is one too many.
There was a large number of families making the most of the free facepainting.  As a very large crowd began to gather we were entertained by live music from Jonathan Williams, Acivilian and the Red Flags.

At around 12.30 we began our march to city hall where we waited for some time for the EDL to arrive.  The calm, peaceful but determined crowd kept themselves amused and energised with a range of chants.  The most popular included “Black and White, Unite and Fight: Smash the EDL”, “We are black, white asian and we’re Jew…and we’re gay”, “You could have come in a taxi”, “This is just embarassing” and “We are Norwich, Tommy’s eating porridge” alluding to the imprisonment of their leader Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Lennon, currently in jail for using a fake passport to travel to America (following previous convictions for violent offences).  

Meanwhile the EDL were causing ugly scenes in the city centre, such as this one in Castle Meadow, and over the day four members of the group were arrested.

The EDL did exactly what we said they would do on the day, we hope that We are Norwich can now help to get out the positive message that such a diverse group of people, young and old, black and white, gay or straight came together to oppose them.

Before We are Norwich left City Hall we turned our backs on the the fascists and held a minute’s silence in respect of those that fought in the war fighting fascism. As one person on the demonstration said to me:
Today we oppose them, tomorrow we remember why.
It was especially poignant that one poppy seller left his position on the market and joined us on the counter-demonstration.

The EDL does not in any way represent those that gave their lives fighting against the evil that the EDL promotes.  Emma Corlett, a nurse said:
I found it very distressing that one of the EDL members had a red poppy in one hand whilst doing a Nazi salute with his other hand.
Whilst we held a victory march back to Chapelfield Gardens, the EDL was being chased out of the city by locals and an angry group of 150 young people chased the fascists down Prince of Wales Road and onto their trains.  As Lesley Grahame, Green Party Cllr said:
We showed that we are everywhere, as overheard from one EDL member.
We are Norwich said that we would prevent the EDL getting to the steps of City Hall and the War Memorial – we did.  We said that we would build a massive and broad Coalition to oppose them – we did.  We said that we would be peaceful, family friendly but loud and determined – we were.  At a time when we often bemoan the fact that people don’t care about others any more and won’t get up and do something positive, our counter mobilisation has been a beacon of light and hope.  We are Norwich will stay together for as long as we are needed. The EDL will never be welcome here.

Nick O’Brien (Secretary)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

EDL humiliated

About 200 of them, according to one policeman, and about seven hundred of us, according to my conservative estimate, but I am quite short and did not see all of our procession, so don't take my word for it.  

There is no doubt We Are Norwich easily outnumbered the EDL today, and we had a good time doing it.

The crowd gathered in Chapelfield Gardens as Clive Lewis was speaking.  It was a fantastic turnout despite Saturday lie-in and the rain, and we soon began to gather for the march to City Hall.

Here are some of the banners to give an idea of the range of support for We Are Norwich -
The flag of Norfolk, these ladies told me

There was a large presence of genial police and our own stewards, but the policing was light and the atmosphere was so amiable that many children were in our group.  

You can see for yourselves how friendly and relaxed almost everyone was.  
I overheard one young woman giving a radio interview.  The interviewer asked why she was here, and she answered 
"Because it is the right thing to do"

We chanted "Whose streets? OUR streets, whose city? OUR city" as we marched  down Theatre Street and along Gentleman's Walk, and invited on lookers to join in.  The police horses were magnificent -

And this was the view at City Hall

We are Norwich
And Tommy's doing porridge!

I didn't see much of the EDL, but apparently there have been a few scuffles immediately dealt with by the police, and one arrest.

Today was a great day for Norwich.