Published: 13:48, 07 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.
The left-wing opposition outnumbered the original protestors by about three to one prompting Kent Anti-Racism Network to call the gathering "pathetic".
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.
"In a strange way though the fascists have done us a favour because today they brought us even closer together. We received a warm welcome from the mosque and have plans to work together in the future. It's been a really positive day."
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.
"People have the right to protest and have freedom of expression but nothing was inappropriate.
"We arranged tea and coffee and people enjoyed that. It was very British that people came out to support us, I liked that."It was my first experience of this in Maidstone, it's always peaceful. I've lived here 19 years and it's a beautiful town with beautiful people."The mosque has been there for 22 years and Dr Usmani has been the Imam for 19 years after moving from Pakistan in 1997.
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."
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