Calls to boycott far right rally in Preston

A woman holds her son as they wait in line in order to get into a reception centre in Opatovac, Croatia.

A woman holds her son as they wait in line in order to get into a reception centre in Opatovac, Croatia.

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The Lancashire Evening Post is asking the people of Preston to boycott a far right anti-refugee rally planned in the city.

Members of The North West Infidels, a splinter group from the controversial English Defence League, say they will hold a No More Refugees themed demonstration in a “prime spot” in the city on Saturday, October 10.

The LEP wants readers to rise above the rally and asks those suggesting a counter demonstration to instead focus on the real issue – helping those fleeing persecution from war-torn Syria.

The North West Infidels have refused to speak to the Evening Post about their plans, but within hours of a Facebook event page being set up, 160 people had confirmed their attendance.

Under the hashtag #Nomorerefugees, a poster on the site reads: “You have taken our kindness for granted. You have abused our goodness. Now pay the price.”

It goes on: “They say you reap what you sow, now face the harvest of your treachery, we will take to the streets in numbers. We’ll not allow you to rest peacefully until the price has been paid.

“No excuses, this is direct action.

“Step up or step out. Like Dover, our voice will be heard and our feet on the ground will echo through Lancashire and beyond.”

A member posted, saying that all pro-white European groups were welcome at the demonstration and welcome to fly their flags and banners. He also invited them to speak.

The move has been branded an “insult to Preston” by counter-protesters, who are now organising their own response for the day.

The police and Preston Council are working together to plan for the event, with the aim of facilitating a peaceful protest, but say details are sketchy.

Coun John Swindells, deputy leader of Preston Council, said: “A group called the North West Infidels have made contact with the police regarding some form of event in Preston on October 10.

“It is not yet clear exactly what is being proposed but we will continue to work closely with the police to find out more and if necessary, plan accordingly.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We are currently in negotiations with a group calling themselves the North West Infidels who have requested to hold a demonstration in Preston on October 10.

“No firm decisions have been made at this stage and we are working closely with the organisers and with our partners to ensure that any event passes off peacefully.”

The group describes itself as standing against ‘radical Islam, Zionism, Communism, Irish Republicanism and the militant left’.

Violence was seen in Wigan town centre on September 21 after a rally was held by the group and the National Front.

They have also held demostrations in Oldham and Manchester earlier this year.

Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, called the event “an insult to Preston” said work is being done to organise a peaceful counter-protest.

He said: “These people are trying to make political capital out of people suffering, and it’s something we do not want to see. These refugees deserve asylum, they have human rights.

“Preston has a fine tradition of helping the people who need it most, and even in the 1930s and 40s, when the town itself was experiencing hard times, it held out the hand of friendship to the Kindertransport refugees, escaping the Nazis.

“Preston should be proud of that and we will be celebrating it at the event. To hold an anti-refugee rally is an insult to the people of the city.”

Jeremy Dable, chairman of the Preston Faith Forum which urged David Cameron to welcome more refugees into the country, said: “Preston is a single community. We have different identities, but the way we work is to accept one another.

“Divisions make people unhappy and we’re very much against that.

“These people are bad news, but the people of Preston will rise above it.”

Speaking while en-route to deliver food, shelter and resources to those in a Calais refugee camp, he added: “I am Jewish and I’m sat in a van with a Muslim and a Christian, delivering aid to those who need it. That is what Preston is about.

“Preston is a very, very kind city and its people have reacted enormously generously to the appeal for help.”