Originally published on Run of the Millfield, a hyperlocal website focused on the Millfield suburb of Sunderland, on February 16th 2013.
The proposed construction of a mosque in Millfield is set to result in more protests from unhappy residents, with the North East Infidels preparing a regional demo for the day before Easter Sunday.
The proposal to turn the former council depot into a mosque has caused controversy since the decision was accepted in January and the next major demo will be held on 30thMarch.
There have been protests over the mosque in the past, most notably inOctober when the NEI and other groups related to the English Defence League clashed with Unite Against Fascism on the proposed site.
Talking exclusively to Run of the Millfield, an NEI member who goes by the name ‘Billy Nomates’ said that, contrary to many media reports, resident’s concerns are not about Islam or worship – they are merely unhappy with what the place of worship will do to their community in terms of congestion and noise.
He said: “They [the residents] had said they were scared of noise problems, parking issues and the fact that the majority of the locals in that area are elderly.
“I attended the local residents meetings where we listened to what they had done to try and get this mosque from being built.
“So after the residents committee had sent the council numerous emails, letters of objection and a petition of over 1,200 signatures they decided to ignore all of this and go ahead with it [the construction of the mosque].
“There is an illegal mosque on St Mark’s Road already with the council’s knowledge but nothing has been done about it.
“This has been going on for three years… the residents were at a loss as to where to go next so after the last meeting we introduced ourselves and let them know they need press coverage to help them and we, the NEI [North East Infidels] and EDL [English Defence League] will get that press even though it’s always bad.”
Around 200 people were involved in the demo in October last year where 13 arrests were made. Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Ashman said at the time: “It is disappointing that a protest that was planned as peaceful has resulted in arrests.
“We have a strong police presence in the area and this will continue in order to provide reassurance to the community.
“We will not tolerate any sort of disorder and those seen to be committing such offences will be arrested.”
Two people were arrested at the November protest, but ‘Nomates’ defended the NEI’s history in demos, saying there were “13 arrested last time because the UAF goaded and taunted us on the day to get a reaction.”
“We are judged before we even get there although every demo the NEI have had there is never any trouble and we are praised by police for our behaviour.”
Residents with any concerns over the mosque and the demo can go along to the Partners and Community Together (PACT) meetings on Monday 18th February. The first is being held at Pallion Action Group on Eastmoor Road at 3pm until 4pm, and the second is at Deptford & Millfield Community Centre, Havelock Towers on Hylton Road from 6pm until 7pm.