Published: 11:00, 22 January 2017
Far right protests against the redevelopment of Maidstone's mosque have led to the birth of a new anti-racism network in the town.
It comes after around 10 members of anti-immigration party Britain First turned up at the Islamic centre in Mote Road, yesterday with placards calling for a ban on more mosques.
Last month Maidstone Borough Council approved proposals to redevelop the existing place of worship.
Now, Maidstone Green Party's campaigns officer, Steve Cheeseman, has started a Maidstone Anti-Racist Network in response.
He says it was necessary in the face of increasing threats and intimidation towards Muslims in Maidstone from far right groups, and that it will organise peaceful counter protests.
The group has attracted almost a hundred members in its first few hours.
Earlier this month, a protest about the redevelopment by far right group South East Alliance was branded pathetic by people who turned out from counter-movements.
Around 15 people attended waving South East Alliance banners and St George's flags, but were outnumbered three to one by members of anti-racism and anti-fascist groups expressing their support for the mosque.
Speaking of South East Alliance and Britain First, Mr Cheeseman said: “Their attempts to intimidate local Muslims are not welcome and we want to show them just how welcome our Muslim friends are in Maidstone.
“I managed to get to the mosque today and disrupt their protest a little but this new group, which is open to all Maidstone people, will help us organise more quickly and get a greater response if there is a next time.”
Approved in December, plans for the mosque will see the demolition of the existing building and the creation of a modern, three-storey structure, featuring a complex of classrooms, a library, offices, kitchen, three shops and one flat.