Parades commission should not support hate speech
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We are writing to you to draw your attention to a rally that happened outside city hall on Sunday 6th August. This Rally was organised by Britain First, and hosted by a member of Belfast City Council, and was entitled "Northern Ireland against terrorism".
There are a number of reasons we'd like to report this rally, and hope you'll be able to let us know what action will be taken, and refuse support for future such rallies.
There are multiple clear instances of hate speech in the hour long event, and such events should not be supported by the police and the parades commission, on the basis that they incite racial and religious hatred. The speeches repeatedly equate Muslims and the religion of Islam with rape and terrorism, and contain statements like "Jihad and Islam are one and the same", "Every single Muslim is obliged to kill you and your husbands and your wives and your children, are we getting this yet?", "We are at war with Islam" and "Islam says every single one of you here deserves to be killed". The words invasion, occupation and colonisation are repeatedly used. The event's primary purpose is clearly to stir up hatred against people on the basis of religion, and confusing categories of people to encourage hatred on the basis of race or colour. The video has since been viewed online by 140,000 people, and we have reported it to Hate Speech Watch, and to facebook, the platform being used to share the video.
The rally registered its event with the parades commission stating that there would be no band. However a band was present, and it played the sash, a sectarian song. We also question the decision to allow this event to happen in peak tourist season, when numerous groups of visitors had to push their way through the rally, which can't contribute to a positive image of Northern Ireland.
Amnesty International last year expressed concern at “worryingly high” figures for hate crimes and incidents in Northern Ireland. In 2015/16 there were 1,333 racist incidents and 785 racist crimes recorded by the police. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance last year expressed concern that people in Northern Ireland have less protection against racial discrimination than other parts of the UK.
As stated in a 2013 publication by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on parades and protests, (quoting the European Court of Human Rights) " if the right to freedom of assembly is repeatedly exercised by way of intimidating marches involving large groups, the state is entitled to take measures restricting the related freedom of association in so far as it is necessary to avert the danger which such large-scale intimidation represents for the functioning of democracy …. Large-scale, co-ordinated intimidation – which is related to the advocacy of racially motivated policies, incompatible with the fundamental values of democracy –may justify state interference with freedom of association."
Britain First intend to apply to hold another event next month, and will presumably be submitting an application to the parades commission. We petition you to refuse their application. Hate speech directly hurts people, and giving platform to this kind of event will directly lead to discrimination against, oppression of and violence against people living in Northern Ireland.
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