• Diversity enriches Portsmouth

    Today I joined over 200 people of all ages in Guildhall Square to stand up for one simple belief. I stood holding a placard that said “We believe that diversity enriches Portsmouth”.

    Usually I wouldn’t choose to be standing out in the rain in Guildhall Square on a Saturday morning, but unfortunately today it was necessary. Why? Because today the racist thugs of the English Defence League came to Portsmouth again.

    Time and again the EDL have claimed to be a peaceful protest organisation but their record speaks for itself. The last time they visited Portsmouth they vandalised one of our local mosques, threw missiles injuring a young muslim woman and attacked police officers.

    Perhaps somewhat enlightening was my first experience of the EDL today. Standing in the queue to buy a sandwich I found myself behind one EDL member from their ‘Doncaster Division’ lecturing another about the ‘problems’ with ‘extremist’ Muslims in Portsmouth. As far as I could tell, this guy’s entire experience of Portsmouth was his 5 minute walk from Portsmouth and Southsea station to the Park Tavern. He boldly described how ‘everyone’ was fed up with ‘these muslims’. Quite frankly, as someone who actually does live in Portsmouth  I found his statements offensive. Portsmouth has little or no history of racial tension and in fact I am proud of our city’s capacity to welcome people of different faiths and different ethnic backgrounds and enable them to make Portsmouth their home.

    The EDL stands for everything I do not – intolerance, hatred and division.

    They have little or no known support in Portsmouth and this was just evidenced by them busing in their ‘supporters’ from across the country and still only mustering about 400 drunken thugs spoiling for a fight with the police. Sure enough, less than 2 hours later the EDL returned to form. 7 arrests for offences ranging from violent disorder to racist abuse and assaulting a police officer.

    The EDL’s brand of hatred and intolerance is not wanted in Portsmouth!