Belfast march and memorial planned for Lee Rigby

Drummer Lee Rigby
Drummer Lee Rigby

A Portadown man is appealing to people to congregate at Belfast City Hall later this month for a demonstration against extremism in memory of murdered British soldier Lee Rigby.

Matthew Beeching said he was disappointed and bemused when he was told his application to hold an event in the grounds of the City Hall will have to go before the city council, meaning it will not be dealt with in time for the UK-wide June 23 Woolwich Strong solidarity event.

Events are planned in cities across the UK as a memorial to the murdered soldier and as part of the Woolwich Strong movement - whose founders have denied being part of any right-wing extremist groups.

Matthew, a 42-year-old father-of-two from Richhill, said he had been touched by the horrific murder of Drummer Rigby last month, and came across a group he felt was taking a peaceful stand against extremism.

Belfast City Council confirmed they had received an application for an event but said no decision has been made as “it is still going through council procedures”.

“Due to the scale and type of the event planned, it is likely the request will have to be considered by councillors and the decision to grant/refuse permission will be taken by them,” added a spokeswoman.

Mr Beeching, who said he has had the verbal backing of local UKIP member and hopes to get the support of MPs for the event, said he is keen to assure people that he has no political background.

“I want to make this clear - this march is not racist, anti-Islamic, sectarian or political,” he said. “We do not associate ourselves with EDL or BNP or any other sectarian group from either side of the community.”

Mr Beeching has also applied to the Parades Commission for permission to hold a march around City Hall, and intends on making a short speech to the crowd before holding a two minute silence.

The Commission confirmed to the News Letter that the parade was not considered sensitive and will therefore likely be allowed to go ahead.

Since Drummer Rigby’s murder there have been fears of a rise in tensions between communities and a rise in extremism.

Earlier this week a Somali centre was daubed with graffiti before being set alight in London, and shortly after Drummer Rigby’s murder English Defence League members and supporters, some wearing balaclavas, clashed with police during a protest.

Mr Beeching said he is hopeful a peaceful event can be held in two week’s time.

“Extremism is exactly the thing we are against,” he said. “I can’t stop anybody coming to the march. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a particular group - as long as you are coming along for our agenda.”