Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Speaking out for Exeter, Together

Cllr Richard Westlake, TOSFOR's Nazima Khan, MP Ben Bradshaw
and myself at Ben's recent Multicultural Lunch event
Exeter is a city that is home to a beautiful purpose built mosque, one of the country's oldest synagogues, a Sikh Temple, a number of restaurants and business serving our large Chinese student population and one of the South West's largest annual celebrations of diversity. I have friends here from all corners of England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as the Ivory Coast, Hong Kong, Palestine, Lebanon, Poland, Iran, Egypt, Germany, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia, Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Brazil and France...to name but a few. Our city celebrates Diwali, Chinese New Year and Dia De Los Muertos, alongside Christmas, St George's Day, and our local Llamas Day traditions. It's part of who we are. It's part of what makes our city a great.

On Saturday, 16 November, Exeter will stand up for the diversity that has shaped our city for hundreds of years and will stand against a visiting contingent from the EDL. In 2011, the last time the EDL held a 'march' in Exeter, their half dozen members left with tails between their legs because they were met with about 300 people from all different backgrounds reveling in their rights to revel with whomever they chose! For Round Two, the fine folks from Exeter Together will be standing together for what we believe in with colourful English Disco Lovers style counter protest. I spoke with long time activist and Exeter Together rep, Lizi Allnatt about plans for the day.

Who is Exeter Together?

We are an umbrella group of lots of local organisations such as faith and political groups and trade unions, Woodcraft Folk and Exeter Unite Against Fascism.   

Why are you demonstrating?

We are demonstrating because the English Defence League have decided to call a national demonstration in Exeter on Nov 16th. This is the first time the EDL have called a national demonstration here.  

What have you got planned?

Initially we wrote a statement which condemned the EDL and called for people to support an alternative event on the 16th Nov. So far over 80 local organisations have signed the statement and nearly 500 individuals. We have asked people to join with us and celebrate the diversity our beautiful city has. On Nov 16th we are marching from Belmont Park to Bedford Square and holding a rally in the centre of town. We have invited dancers and singers and poets to perform and there will be family friendly activities available.  We hope that our event will be loud and proud and colourful. The police have assured us that our route does not clash with any plans the EDL may have so we really hope families will join us for the event.

Why is it important?

We believe it is important to have an alternative demo to show that the EDL are not speaking for the people of Exeter when they claim that they are coming to claim back Exeter because it is being over run by Muslims both at the University and the city. They spend their time making racist Islamophobic comments/threats on their  Facebook pages. Even Tommy Robinson their old leader admitted recently that the organisation is riddled with racists and fascists. We do not want these people to march around Exeter without an alternative view being shown. They do not really seem to know why they are marching here, however we fear that unchallenged views like those of the EDL can grow and spread fear and hatred and divide a community.

Come along to the Exeter Together march on 16 Nov at 1030, starting at Belmont Park, Exeter.

No comments:

Post a Comment