Published: 13:48, 07 January 2017 |
Updated: 12:48, 09 January 2017
A protest by a far-right group against the planned expansion of Maidstone Mosque has been branded "pathetic" by people who turned out to oppose it.
South East Alliance, which calls itself a "pro British and English anti-extremist and immigration group" planned to stage a protest outside the place of worship in Mote Road after Maidstone Borough Council approved plans to redevelop the mosque.
Left-wing groups, including Kent Anti-Racism Network, vowed to hold a counter protest.
South East Alliance said it would protest from 11am to 3pm but just before 1pm none of them had turned up and it looked like the opposition crowd had had a wasted journey.
However, just after 1pm about 15 people turned up waving South East Alliance banners and St George's flags.
It is believed the 15 or so people included members of more than one far right group.
The two groups stood on opposite sides of the road chanting and shouting at one another while police officers stood in between them.
There's a pathetic turnout of fascists here in Maidstone. People shouting "all your friends are in jail!" LOL pic.twitter.com/O5AEcO9F2a— KENT ANTI RACISM NET (@KentAntiRacism) January 7, 2017
The left-wing opposition outnumbered the original protestors by about three to one prompting Kent Anti-Racism Network to call the gathering "pathetic".
Maidstone mosque have brought us pizza! We're having a lovely day ?? pic.twitter.com/3lIYf8fHCV— KENT ANTI RACISM NET (@KentAntiRacism) January 7, 2017
Tweeting shortly after the groups met, they said: "There's a pathetic turnout of fascists here in Maidstone. People shouting 'all your friends are in jail!' LOL."
Members of Maidstone Mosque appeared to approve of the support from the left-wing group.
Just after 2pm Kent Anti-Racism Network tweeted: "Maidstone Mosque have brought us pizza! We're having a lovely day."
They later revealed they were enjoying tea and biscuits in the mosque.
Speaking to KentOnline after the protest a spokesman for the South East Alliance said they had been invited to protest by local people, who they thanked for their support.
The spokesman said: "After being approached by local people, we decided to support them by having a demo today to highlight their opposition to the extension of the mosque.
"They feel they are being ignored by the council. We would like to thank the locals who invited and joined us on our first demo as Kent's official branch of the South East Alliance and we look forward to the next demo."
Kent Anti-Racism Network revealed the demonstration had a surprisingly positive outcome.
Chairman Bridget Chapman said: "We feel very strongly that fascists should not be allowed to peddle their hate on the streets unopposed. These are our communities and we stand together to reject fear and bigotry.
The mosque's Imam Dr Muhammad Usmani said: "It was very peaceful, it was a good experience and both parties were calm, no doubt they shouted a bit but it was calm and peaceful.
The two opposing groups went their separate ways just before 2.30pm.
A police spokesman said: "The planned protest and counter-protest outside the mosque in Mote Road, Maidstone, passed peacefully.
"Police officers liaised with representatives of the mosque throughout the protest."
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.
A guide for your future. For year 11 students in Kent and Medway. Click here for the e-edition.
Neil Miller, Hever Castle head gardener is new gardening blogger.