The news website, Kent Online reports on the creation of a new anti-racism network in Maidstone following far-right protests in the town against a mosque redevelopment project.
Around 10 members of Britain First turned up at the Maidstone Community and Islamic Centre on Saturday, 21 January, carrying placards calling for a ban on the building of more mosques.
Maidstone Borough Council approved proposals to redevelop the existing site, which has served the town’s Muslim community for over 20 years, in December 2016. The plans submitted to the council will see the existing mosque demolished and a “modern, three-storey structure featuring classrooms, a library, offices, kitchen, three shops and a flat” take its place.
Earlier this month, a protest about the redevelopment by the far right group South East Alliance was branded “pathetic” after protestors were outnumbered three to one by anti-racism protestors including members of the Kent Anti-Racism Network.
Maidstone Green Party’s campaigns officer, Steve Cheeseman, started the Maidstone Anti-Racist Network in response to the recent far right protests saying it was necessary in the face of increasing threats and intimidation towards Muslims in to organise peaceful counter-protests to reject the divisiveness of the far right’s campaigns in the area.
Speaking about 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 Muslims 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.”
The paper reports that the new group has attracted almost a hundred members in the first few hours of its opening.
Far right activism in Kent has seen groups like Britain First launch campaigns such as the “anti-halal operation” in Dartford, where leaflets were distributed urging people not to eat at various establishments because they serve halal meat. The group was also implicated in a ‘mosque invasion’ in Gillingham in 2014 when members of the far right movement were filmed harassing a worshipper at the Kent Muslim Welfare Association, urging him to withdraw the mosque’s application for new premises “Otherwise we, Britain First, will run a big campaign against you guys personally and also the council and the Imam, yeah?”