Numbers could have been better admit protest organisers

Anti-refugee rally organised by the Protestant Collation (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Anti-refugee rally organised by the Protestant Collation (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )

Anti-Syrian refugee protestors who staged a demonstration in Belfast on Saturday were significantly outnumbered by people who turned up to support those fleeing the war-torn country.

Around 30 people took part in the ‘Say No to Refugees’ picket outside City Hall on Saturday morning.

Pacemaker Press 5/12/2015  'A counter demonstration organised by Belfast Anti-Fascists  takes place at the same time as A Anti-refugee rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday morning.  Ahead of the arrival of Syrian refugees.  The group calling itself the Protestant Coalition organised  the march, despite  church leaders calling for it to be cancelled.'Pic  Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 5/12/2015 'A counter demonstration organised by Belfast Anti-Fascists takes place at the same time as A Anti-refugee rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday morning. Ahead of the arrival of Syrian refugees. The group calling itself the Protestant Coalition organised the march, despite church leaders calling for it to be cancelled.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A counter-demonstration, the message of which was one of welcome for Syrians arriving in the Province later this month, was attended by about 200 people.

The anti-refugee march was organised by a group calling itself the Protestant Coalition.

There was a major security presence in front of City Hall as police stood between the opposing groups, but there was no trouble.

A PSNI spokesman said: “PSNI were in attendance at a number of protests outside Belfast City Hall but there were no reports of any incidents.”

Dr Raied Al Wazzan from the Belfast Islamic Centre counter protesting at the Anti-refugee rally organised by the Protestant Collation held in Belfast

Dr Raied Al Wazzan from the Belfast Islamic Centre counter protesting at the Anti-refugee rally organised by the Protestant Collation held in Belfast

Among those at the anti-refugee march was victims’ spokesman Willie Frazer, who said he was there to “highlight the fact that there is a possibility of extremists being brought into Northern Ireland”.

Last night he told the News Letter: “We are not against refugees as such but charity has to start at home.

“We have a pretty good relationship with Muslims at the moment in this country, but what happens if one of these boys get through? People say I am scaremongering but look at what has happened elsewhere.

“It only takes one of these boys to get through – and any community relations we have here are gone.”

Mr Frazer said he has been slammed for his stance being “not a Christian thing to do” but he insisted “it is a Christian thing to do because we have suffered enough in Northern Ireland”.

Polish national Judyta Szacillo, who attended the counter-demonstration as “a Belfast citizen” and an executive member of the Green Party said she was “very happy about the outcome”.

Ms Szacillo, 35, who came to Belfast 10 years ago to complete a PhD at Queen’s University and now works as a librarian there, said: “My estimation would be there were around 30-40 people at the Protestant Coalition rally and around 200 at the counter-demonstration.

“I was very happy about that. We had a number of speeches and it was all very quiet but upbeat.”

When asked about claims that the counter-demonstration contained dissident republican members, she said: “I am not familiar with any of them.

“I saw people from the Islamic centre, people from the Labour Party, the Belfast Anti-Fascists were there in the strongest number and a few people who were not with any organisations. There were also women and children...

“The point was very strong - that Belfast has shown the real support for this issue and I was very happy to see that.”

In a Facebook post on the Protestant Coalition Community page on Saturday they “thank all those who braved not only the weather today but also the abuse that they had to endure from Antifa [the anti-fascist group]...

“There has been many conflicting reports regarding how many people attended our walk and event, especially from the media as they work to their agenda of putting those of us down who have an opinion on the policies regarding open borders and unchecked immigration.

“Whilst numbers to some people are important, we are very thankful to those from across the political divide in our country who came out to support us and voice their opposition to the invasion that is taking place across Europe as we speak.”

It added: “Athough numbers could have been better, we do understand that at times like this circumstances dictate whether people can come out or not – that aside, I would like to thank everyone once again and ensure that this is only the start, as we will continue to show our opposition to the EU’s and the British government’s open door policies of border control and immigration.”