Police shut down Lewisham East by-election hustings as angry protesters clash outside

Protesters succeeded in sabotaging a hustings organised for the Lewisham East by-election.

Police were forced to shut down the hustings in Catford, as tensions grew outside and anti-racism protesters clashed with members of the public.

One man was arrested on suspicion of assault, but released without charge.


Liberal Democrat and Women’s Equality party candidates have criticised the protest, saying it prevented opportunities to openly criticise far-right opinions.

While the Stand Up to Racism group, who led the demonstration, say it was justified because it stopped For Britain candidate Anne Marie Waters, who they believe is a racist, from speaking.

Doreen Cooper, 83, had walked to the Salvation Army building in Catford, where she regularly prays, to ask the question she had prepared for the candidates. But she was prevented from getting in.  

Ms Cooper, who lives in Stannard Court, said: “It’s frightening. I don’t want to meet any of these people at night. It’s awful, people that can be roused with such temper.

“I was hoping to be able to get in to talk to the candidates, but it doesn’t look as if I’m going to get a chance.”

Doreen Cooper

About 100 protesters arrived last night before the hustings was due to begin at 7pm.

They blocked the main entrance, trying to prevent candidates from entering.

A small police presence then opened up a side gate, letting a number of candidates into the building.

The protesters rushed over to block the side entrance.

Angry exchanges between the protesters and members of the public supporting the candidates ensued.

A larger police force was then called in with up to 30 officers attending.

The target of the protest, Ms Waters, did not turn up to the hustings.

She said on twitter: I can categorically state that I did not cancel my attendance at the Lewisham East hustings. We have been told to stay away by the police who have told my security team they are shutting it down.”

Ms Waters stood for UKIP in the general election in Lewisham East in 2015, coming third with 9.1 per cent of the vote.

She had previously been a member of the Labour party.
She also helped set up the UK branch of the anti-Islam group Pegida with Tommy Robinson and spoke at the “Free Tommy Robinson” march on Saturday in central London.

Lib Dem Lewisham East candidate Lucy Salek said: “Debate is at the very heart of democracy, and last night the people of Lewisham were been badly let down.

“I attended the hustings to stand up for the liberal values that the people of Lewisham hold dear. As a result of the actions of a few, my voice was stifled.

“In these strained times it is crucial that we allow those with opposing views to debate. Liberal values will win, every time.

“I will always defend the right to peaceful protest, but the toxic and threatening atmosphere outside the hustings last night was totally inappropriate.”

Mandu Reid, Women’s Equality Party candidate for Lewisham East, said: “I wanted to go to the hustings to challenge the far-right’s hate-filled narrative and to expose their ugly ideology for what it is.

“Unfortunately, I was denied that opportunity and, more importantly, the residents of Lewisham East were denied the chance to question their future MP.

“We cannot have a situation where parties on the hate-filled extremes of politics have a disproportionate ability to influence how our democracy works and it is frustrating that these far-right figures will now tediously and noisily claim that they are being silenced, with no counter-narrative on offer.

“Tonight, there was a vacuum where the biggest parties should have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder against hate. In recent years both have chosen an approach of absorbing what political benefits they can from these fringes and ignoring the rest – both polluting the mainstream and making the fringes more toxic in the process.

“Doing politics differently means showing up, even when it’s difficult.”

A spokesman for Stand Up to Racism said: ”

“The attendance last night of former members of the BNP, including their former elections chief Eddy Butler, representing Waters’ For Britain party, confirmed that our concerns for the safety of our diverse community were well founded.

“Lucy Salek and Mandu Reid are mistaken to think that we can win a civilized debate with Waters whose leaflets have included the line ‘all politicians lie’ and the racist dogwhistle ‘one law for all’ at the same time as she is campaigning for fascist former EDL leader Tommy Robinson to be exempted from the law after his jailing for contempt of court.

“Their claims that anti-racist protesters stopped the people of Lewisham having their say ignores the fact that the largest group of Lewisham residents attending were those joining the anti-racist protest and raising their voices in solidarity with our muslim neighbours targeted by For Britain.

“We commend all who turned out to make it clear the divisive, racist politics of Waters and For Britain are not welcome in Lewisham and all those candidates who listened to our concerns and put the safety of our diverse community first.”

A Met police spokesman said: “A pre-planned hustings event at the Salvation Army centre in Brownhill Road, on the evening of Tuesday, June, 12 was closed down with the permission of the event organiser, following concerns for public safety after a large crowd gathered outside the premises.

“The crowds dispersed; there were no reports of any injuries.”

The Lewisham East by-election was triggered by Heidi Alexander’s resignation last month, to join London Mayor Sadiq Khan at City Hall as deputy mayor of Transport.

Voters will go to the polls on June 14.

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Police shut down Lewisham East by-election hustings as angry protesters clash outside

  • 13th June 2018 at 2:15 pm
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    Sickening display of intolerance by labour and tory candidates ..they have incited hatred and this undermining of the hustings …time to declare these parties for what they are terrorists organisations and thieves who have undermined the rule of law in Britain and her church.

    Reply
    • 13th June 2018 at 8:32 pm
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      This is, of course absolute rubbish; that the Far Right would try to claim that the PROTESTERS are ‘terrorists’, ‘thieves’(?), and are ‘inciting hatred’(?) for standing up to the Nazi ideology of For Britain, and Ann Marie Waters is simply disgusting.

      And it’s singularly unedifying to have LibDem and WEP candidates trying to make political capital out of a something which is actually a political mess. Ann Marie Waters and her far right For Britain Party should never have been let anywhere near a political hustings in Lewisham East in the first place.

      LibDem candidate, Lucy Salek, and WEP candidate, Mandu Reid should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting the problem is the Labour Party. Labour candidate, Janet Daby, did EXACTLY the right thing in refusing to attend a hustings so willing to give a platform to hatespeech monger Ann Marie Waters. If either of them had an ounce of integrity they’d have done the same.

      Ann Marie Waters is a fascist. Her website is full of lies and disinformation. She seeks to blame immigrants for the state of the NHS, conveniently letting the Tories off the hook for their chronic underfunding of the NHS for the past 8 years. She conveniently ignores the inconvenient truth that our NHS is held together by the hard work of doctors, nurses, porters, and other staff who come from all over the world.

      She relays factually incorrect lies from the online king of fake news, Breitbart. She talks about the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ case without mentioning that these claims were recently thrown out of Court as not holding water.

      The fascist Far Right is, as always, using lies and deception to drive a wedge into local communities in an effort to garner publicity. They’ve focused in on Lewisham East simply because Lewisham is a longseated, vibrant, multicultural community that represents everything the fascist Right hates. Fascists don’t like to see different people getting along with each other because it reminds them that every single nasty, distorted lie they’ve told themselves is not true.

      For Britain doesn’t give a flying fig about the people of Lewisham and Lewisham East. They are only interested in USING them to further their own twisted agenda.

      Don’t let them.

      Reply
      • 14th June 2018 at 11:31 am
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        I’m voting for “For Britain”, as are many people I know. They are certainly NOT fascist.

        Reply
      • 14th June 2018 at 2:17 pm
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        And now that she has been silenced she is getting a lot more attention than before. More people will be going to her website and seeing her lies.

        You do not beat intollerance with intollerance, you beating by exposing the stupidity in their arguments.

        Reply
  • 13th June 2018 at 6:19 pm
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    The technique of using activist groups to physically disrupt election meetings in order to prevent an opposing candidate speaking is deplorable and possibly illegal. Anne Marie Waters seems to have attracted the particular wrath of UAF who have managed to trigger a handful of their supporters and allies in this case, to great effect. This has been so throughout her campaign. There have even been rumours that somebody, possibly a senior police officer, organised a deceptive public address announcement at London Bridge Station, to the effect that a meeting of 10,000 people on Saturday 9th June that she was due to address had been cancelled. It had not been cancelled, so the message was either a mistake or deliberate.

    Political campaigning in the UK seems to be approaching that of Egyptian elections, where a main challengers are arrested on trumped-up charges, and their campaign manager beaten up, while other hopefuls pull out, citing intimidation.

    Reply
  • 14th June 2018 at 2:54 pm
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    I agree with what Stephe Meloy says about the disgusting racist politics of For Britain and Anne Marie Waters. That however does not justify preventing people from attending a hustings at which all 14 candidates (as required by electoral law) had been invited.
    Labour candidate Janet Daby in a public statement said that she would not attend the hustings because to do so would give For Britain `the oxygen of publicity`. In fact, her statement and that of Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan, and the `anti-racist` demonstration, gave Ms Waters and For Britain 100 times more publicity than she would have received as one of 14 candidates in the Salvation Army Hall.
    Perhaps the non-attendance of the Labour party had more to do with avoiding awkward questions such as why has the Labour leadership abandoned its policy of scrapping the Trident missile system, or about the expulsion from Labour of activists such as Marc Wadsworth and Ken Livingstone for defending the rights of the Palestinian people. Perhaps the non-attendance of the Conservative candidate was to avoid awkward questions on austerity, Brexit, Grenfell Tower and the Home Office`s bureaucratic persecution of Windrush generation migrants.
    Voters have a right to question their candidates. That 1 of 14 candidates is a fascist is not a good reason to frustrate that right – in fact, it hands the fascist candidate a victory

    Reply
  • 7th July 2018 at 2:42 pm
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    Why didn’t the Police act and protect the democratic process? These “protestors” are acting illegally. Arrest and carry them away, not shut down democracy. An absolute disgrace!

    Reply

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