Eid event cancelled after far-right demonstration raises safety fears

That a community feels such fear 'shows we must tackle the scourge of the far right', watchdog says

Caroline Mortimer
Friday 01 July 2016 15:25
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The chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs' Council warns there has been a fivefold increase in hate crime since the Brexit vote
The chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs' Council warns there has been a fivefold increase in hate crime since the Brexit vote

Eid celebrations in Southampton have been cancelled over security concerns following a plan demonstration by anti-immigration activists.

The British Bangladesh Cultural Academy (BBCA) said it has been forced to cancel its Eid al-Fitr prayer event in a Southampton park following a planned demonstration by the South Coast Resistance group at the weekend.

Thousands had been expected to attend the annual Islamic event to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Shere Sattar told the BBC: "We have decided it would be best if we cancel the huge gathering considering the political situation and unrest in the UK after leaving the EU and the rise of racist activity and comments around the other cities."

The demonstration in Southampton city centre by the far-right group - which is calling for “an end to mass immigration” – is due to take place on Saturday.

The group said they plan to march under a banner saying “Refugees Not Welcome”.

A counter-protest has been organised by a group called Southampton Antifascists at the same time.

A Facebook event for the counter-demonstration suggests more than 700 will attend.

Despite the cancellation, the BBCA has insisted Eid al-Adha celebrations to mark the Haji in September will still go ahead as planned and al-Fitr prayers would be heard in local mosques.

A spokesman for Tell Mama told The Independent: “It is really concerning that an institution feels it cannot celebrate a religious festival that is central to its faith.

“And for a community to feel that sense of fear shows we must tackle the scourge of the far right”.

A spokeswoman for Hampshire Police confirmed they had been informed about the planned anti-immigrantion rally and said they were were planning “carefully to police them in the most appropriate way”.

She said: “This is to make sure people are able to exercise their right to demonstrate, without the need for police intervention to protect or in some cases, restrict those rights and also to make sure the event is peaceful.

“We would like to reassure our communities and local residents that we are here to speak to and discuss any concerns they may have.”

It comes as the National Police Chiefs’ Council reports a fivefold increase in the number of racially motivated hate crimes in the week following the EU referendum.

The far-right have used the Brexit vote to renew their call for immigrants to 'go home' (file photo)

The watchdog’s chairwoman, Sara Thornton, said: “In a number of forces, migrants are reporting verbal abuse, negative social media commentary including xenophobic language, anti-migrant leafleting and, in very limited numbers, physical assaults.”

She said hate crime is still “significantly under-reported” and there were some people who were afraid to leave their homes following Brexit.

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