Council calls for ban on far-right marches

Town councillors have called for protest marches of a racist nature to be banned in Berwick.

Thursday, 10th November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:48 pm
The Scottish Defence League (SDL) and the North East Infidels (NEI) during an anti-immigration rally in Berwick.

It follows the staging of an anti-immigration rally in the town by far-right activists in October.

There have been several similar demonstrations in Berwick in recent years, with the Scottish Defence League and North East Infidels converging on the town as a meeting point.

Around 75 people joined last month’s march with a similar number forming a counter-demonstration organised by Berwick Unites Against Fascism.

Police ensured the two groups were kept apart, although there were minor skirmishes.

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Last month, Berwick Neighbourhood Inspector Liz Hall told councillors that the protesters were entitled to their freedom of speech, no matter what their views.

However, Berwick Town Council has now decided to contact Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman to ask what can be done to prevent a return visit.

It will also ask why the march was not banned, why no-one was arrested for incitement or race hatred and why Nazi salutes were allowed.

They will make similar representations to Northumberland County Council’s public protection unit.

Cllr Eric Goodyer said: “The people who marched through our town four weeks ago were not interested in debate.

“I know several residents who have told me they were frightened and intimidated.

“I believe this is a reasoned and measured response to what happened.

“Let’s not let this happen again. We don’t want coachloads of people coming from all over the country and marching with banners of the SS and wearing black shirts of the para-m ilitary.”

He was backed by Cllr Gordon McLean who expressed concerns about the negative publicity such marches bring to a town largely dependent on tourism.

Cllr Paul Hodgson also said it appeared Northumbria Police’s intelligence analysis of last month’s march was flawed.

“We need to implore to the Chief Constable that intelligence analysist and risk assessment is done properly,” he said.

Councillors agreed the following motion: ‘Berwick Town Council believes that racism has no place in our town, and that the supporters of race hatred are not welcome here. We also request that all further racist marches are banned as they constitute a breach of the peace.’

But Cllr Georgina Hill said: “It is an absolutely fundamental cornerstone of a free society to allow freedom of speech however unpalatable we find those sentiments to be.”