Belfast ‘anti-refugee protest’ attended by about 25 people
Counter demonstrators outnumber those at march which organisers deny is racist
An anti-refugee parade in Belfast drew around 25 participants on Saturday. The protesters were significantly outnumbered by those involved in a counter demonstration. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson.
An anti-refugee parade in Belfast drew around 25 participants on Saturday.
The protesters, members of the Protestant Coalition which is “against the open door immigration policy”, were significantly outnumbered by those involved in a counter demonstration entitled ‘Refugees Welcome, Bigots Not - Stand Against Hate’.
Later this month 51 Syrian refugees, including a newborn baby, will arrive in Northern Ireland after fleeing the war-torn country.
Among the Protestant Coalition members in attendance on Saturday was William Frazer from south Armagh.
Mr Frazer said “it’s not about the 51, it’s about the masses”. “I wouldn’t welcome them but certainly once they are here I would welcome them,” he said.
“We need to help them integrate...It’s about the thousands of people we see coming across the borders.”
Mr Frazer rejected the suggestion that the Protestant Coalition is a racist group. “People are concerned about what is going to happen because unlike the IRA, these boys, don’t run away,” he said.
He questioned what might happen if “one or two of these extreme Muslims get in and carry out acts of violence”.
“The IRA run away...these boys are fanatics, they will die for their cause,” he added.
Antrim man Luigi Johnston (57), from far-right group Britain First, said he was demonstrating because he is “against Islam and Sharia law”.
“By 2050 the whole world will be overtook by Muslims,” he said.
Mr Johnston was also critical of the Syrian refugees arriving in Belfast in 10 days.“People say we are racist, we are not racist and sectarian as it is not a religion, they are not a race, it is an evil cult.”
Plumber Chris McCormick (19) from north Belfast helped organise the counter demonstration to send a message to the world that Syrian refugees are welcome in Belfast.
“We are not happy with the Protestant Coalition sending a message to the world that the majority of the people in the city completely disagree with,” he said.
“We want to send a message that we welcome refugees.”
Syrian woman Khadijah Okdeh (59), who has been living in Belfast for 25 years, said the rally was very positive and “much appreciated”.
“Syrian people have not made conflict by themselves, all the countries have hands in it,” she added. “The paraders don’t know anything about politics, about the war, about humanity.”
Scientist Raied al-Wazzan, a member of the Belfast Islamic Centre, described the Protestant Coalition parade as “disgusting”.
“These people do not represent the people of Northern Ireland or the Protestant religion, as most ministers and the Protestant community have condemned the rally,” he said.
On Friday a Syrian refugee won High Court permission to challenge the Parades Commission over Saturday’s parade. Mr Justice Deeney granted the man leave to seek judicial review the determination the parading body reached on the Protestant Coalition rally.