Saturday, 25 January 2014

Message of Togetherness

I didn’t go in there with a bomb, I went in with a message of togetherness

From the Lincolnshire Echo:

Hundreds may have been chanting through the streets of Lincoln on Saturday but one voice was heard above all others. Brave Igor Kartel sparked fury among the East Anglian Patriots when he commandeered their megaphone to spread a message of peace and togetherness. Here he speaks to Adrian Curtis...

As he joined the group of anti-fascist protestors gathering in Lincoln’s St Martin’s Square, Igor Kartel stood out from the crowd.

The 28-year-old Lithuanian was tall and exceptionally well-built.

He was also flanked by friends from the city’s Kurdistan and Iraqi community.

As the Lincoln Against Racism and Fascism march set off down the High Street to the Cornhill, Mr Kartel was at the front, proudly holding the banner which would later spark the only real confrontation between the two demos.

The man who arrived in Boston in 2010 without a penny to his name but with a willingness to integrate and work in our county was then invited by counter-demo organiser Nick Parker to say a few words to the watching crowd.

He said:
I would like to thank you people for allowing us to integrate and to thank you for your support.

We want to make a positive contribution to the city and if you let us do it, we can. Thank you again.
But then, much to the frustration of the police, he went missing. Not an easy thing to do when you are about 6ft 6in tall and wider than most conventional doorways.

Nevertheless, he managed it. Even more impressive was the ability to appear out of nowhere and place himself right in the middle of the main East Anglian Patriots (EAP) speakers a few hours later.

Mr Kartel, while still holding on to his now folded banner, managed to persuade the EAP’s main speaker to hand him the megaphone.

He seized the opportunity to preach his message of togetherness and unfurl his banner, but once the EAP leaders realised what he was saying, they angrily confronted him and his banner was thrown into the River Witham.

The worst they could do was beat me up, it was nothing really
No punches were thrown in the altercation but the police quickly hauled the Lithuanian out of danger.  He recounted:
I didn’t go there with a bomb, I went with a positive message.

I know something could have gone wrong. But the worst they could do was beat me up, it was nothing really. I was scared a little.

It is just a church they want to build here not a nuclear reactor. It is a church – a place for their religion.

They did not know what I was going to say. Everybody was shocked and asking, ‘Why is this guy taking the megaphone?’

I said something positive, we have to think about the same country and talk. Then I tried to put my banner in front of them and that is when they pushed me away. But I just stood there. I would never have attacked them.

I would use my power to defend women and children but not in this situation. If they had tried to beat me up, I would not have attacked them back.

They just asked me to go away and the police said the same thing. I know it could look like a situation where I was trying incite things but that was not my intention at all. I don’t think I am a brave man. I did not abuse them and they did not abuse me.

Everything I do, I do it for people and for this county. If we get together and talk then a lot of things can change.

We have got a lot to do to change the minds of these people. But we can do it. They are not bad people. They are good people.

They are the same. We should get around the table and talk.
But talking is just one of the areas in which Mr Kartel excels.

Indeed, the reason why he had the bravery to take the megaphone from the EAP and then to face them on his own, stems from his military background and skills and expertise that include security and counter-terrorism.

Mr Kartel is chief executive of the Lincoln Eastern European Community Group. It was formed three years ago to bring together residents living in the city and to develop events and projects that provide opportunities for everyone to come together.

A married father of one, his wife is expecting their second child, he has overcome many difficulties on his route to the city.

He arrived at Boston without any money and just the clothes he was wearing. Mr Kartel explained:

A friend loaned me the money to get to England. I had no money of my own but inside three days I was working in a chicken factory.

I came here because I could not find any work back home. When I got to Boston, it was year zero for me, I started a new life.

Three years ago I created a community group for immigrants so we could all get together and be positive and integrate into this society.

I think we can make it even better as a lot of Eastern Europeans live and work here and want to make a bigger contribution. 
Mr Kartel’s actions last Saturday may just have been the catalyst for that.

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