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We will also post relevant news worthy items and information on Human rights issues, racism, extremist individuals and groups and far right political parties from around the world although predominantly Britain.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Boss of city right-wing group Exeter's English Defence League quits

THE chairman of Exeter's English Defence League has resigned after being caught up in violent clashes  between police and right-wing protesters.

Jim Myers, 43, a door supervisor in the city, sparked controversy by saying Britain needed to follow the French lead and ban the burka.

But he has decided to stand down after last weekend's protest over a planned £18million mosque which left the people of Dudley, West Midlands, with a damage bill for £150,000.

Mr Myers, who lives in St Thomas, had, along with 13 other Exeter EDL members, taken a minibus from Cowick Street to join about 600 EDL protesters from across the country.

They were corralled in a car park but a group of about 200 protesters broke through the gates and clashed with lines of police and vans.
Bricks and cans were thrown at officers, forcing them to change into riot gear, and police dogs were brought in as a back-up. After a ten-minute stand-off with police, the protesters returned to the car park.

Houses and cars were damaged, missiles were hurled at officers and steel fences were pulled down.

Mr Myers, who, along with the Exeter contingent, was not involved in any of the disorder, said: "I was left really disgusted by what I saw in Dudley — from both sides, police and a minority of the protesters.

"There are always troublemakers who will latch on to a protest, whatever it is, and some tempers got heated.

"After what happened, I have decided to resign as Exeter chairman. We will have a meeting in August to see where we go from here."
Mr Myers also revealed that his hopes of holding a 9/11 memorial march through Exeter on September 11 had been dropped.

"I have spoken to the police, with whom I have a good relationship, and I have been told they would oppose such a march," he said. "We had hoped to remember those killed in the 9/11 tragedy."

He also indicated that he would not support a protest at the city's York Road mosque, which he admitted was being considered by EDL members.

The Muslim community in Exeter is said to be frightened at talk that the group — which has seen several of its demonstrations across the country end in violence — would target the mosque in York Road.

Formed just over a year ago, the EDL claims to be against "Islamic fundamentalists" but its opponents said targeting a mosque with no recognised link to terrorism was proof of the group's overall anti-Muslim agenda.

A South West division member says in a posting on the group's Facebook site: "I think a protest is due in Exeter at the mosque."

He then incorrectly states: "The council have given £3million to refurbish it and extremists use this mosque as it's out of the public eye.

"Exeter has had an attempted bomb attack and we don't want another. So please let's make this happen."

In fact, the mosque relies on public donations and the bomber who targeted the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter, Nicky Reilly, was influenced by extremists in Plymouth.

Lizi Allnatt, of the Exeter division of the Unite Against Fascism group, said: "Why have a demonstration at the mosque? It is like a church and is not a place that fundamentalists go to use. It is for everyday, ordinary Muslims. The Muslim community is quite rightly frightened at such a prospect."

SouthWest Business

Minister to ban NPD members from running child care facilities

Politicians in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania hope that a new proposal will prevent private child care centres from being run by neo-Nazis or members of the far-right NPD party, a media report said on Monday.
According to the proposal put forward by state minister for social affairs Manuela Schwesig, those responsible for starting new day care centres or kindergartens must be able to show that their activities are constitutional, daily Ostsee Zeitung reported.

“I’m bothered by the worry that right-wing extremists could become kindergarten leaders,” Schwesig, who is also the deputy leader of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), told the paper.

Only after it was demonstrated that the facility proprietors did not belong to any far-right organisations would they be allowed to care for children, the paper said. Such scrutiny would be unprecedented in Germany’s northeastern states,

Schwesig's proposal follows the revelation in February that an NPD member tried to take over a child care centre in Bartow. When the tiny town of 550 began searching for a new owner for a local kindergarten, the town council was only barely able to prevent it from being taken on by an NPD member.

The Local Germany


In theory, Gerti Töpfer should be celebrating these days. Töpfer, who is the mayor of the small town of Riesa in the eastern German state of Saxony and a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is being feted all over Germany for her efforts to combat right-wing extremism. The 56-year-old mayor seems stressed, however, as she sinks into a white leather chair for an interview in her office in Riesa's town hall, where a sign in the stairwell reads "Diversity Is Good." Töpfer explains that the phone in the town hall has been ringing off the hook ever since it was announced that a Riesa street was, as a result of her initiative, going to be renamed after Hans and Sophie Scholl, young members of a resistance movement in Nazi Germany who were executed and have become folk heroes in modern-day Germany. People have been calling the mayor to congratulate her on her courageous action. The move is regarded as a particularly brave step because Deutsche Stimme, the publishing house of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), is located on that very street. The right-wing extremist publisher would hence be forced to incorporate the names of anti-Nazi resistance fighters in its letterhead. A nice coup for the mayor, it would seem. Indeed, Töpfer is pleased about the sudden attention. The only problem is that very few callers are interested in what else she has achieved for the town over the past seven years. All they care about is the fact that Riesa is an NPD stronghold. "It's annoying," Töpfer says, suddenly looking tired.

Bitter History
The story of Riesa and the NPD is a long and bitter one. Deutsche Stimme has been publishing the NPD party newspaper of the same name, which consists largely of incitement against immigrants, in the town for the past 10 years. The publisher also has a mail order business called the "National Department Store" offering, among other things, replica aviator watches from the Nazi era. Prominent NPD politicians such as Holger Apfel and Jürgen Gansel have moved their offices to Riesa. Their wives, meanwhile, have apparently been trying to infiltrate voluntary organizations for children and young people in the town. The town is set to elect a new mayor on Aug. 22, and Töpfer is running for reelection. The issue of the far-right has divided the local political parties. Töpfer herself seems to have no idea how to address the far-right in her election campaign, apparently out of fear of damaging the town's reputation. In her election program, there is not a single line about the NPD politicians or the Deutsche Stimme publishing house.

Below the Belt
Journalist and blogger Thomas Trappe, however, believes that the town's problems should be openly acknowledged -- something that has caused him to fall out with the mayor. The 29-year-old writes about the NPD on his personal blog about Riesa, in an attempt to demystify far-right agitators like Gansel and Apfel who try to cultivate a respectable image. Töpfer, however, sees Trappe as someone who lacks sensitivity for the town. Many of his blog entries were below the belt, she says. "You can tell that he does not come from Riesa." Trappe's blog was nominated this year for the prestigious Grimme Online Award. On his blog, Trappe describes, without mincing his words, just how helpless the democratic parties and the administration are in their efforts to deal with the NPD. Recently he made fun of a CDU politician who apparently replied to e-mails from the NPD with the single word "asshole." Trappe is sitting in a café in Riesa's renovated pedestrian zone, sipping a Coke. Most of the town's residents have no problems with far-right extremists, he believes. "They consider the NPD to be a normal party." The party's anti-immigrant stance comes across well in a town like Riesa where the unemployment rate is 11 percent. If you ask around in the town's kebab shops and Asian fast food restaurants, few people are willing to admit having had bad experiences with customers who wear Thor Steinar, a clothing label favored by neo-Nazis. Those are just ordinary people, comes the curt reply.

'People Try to Gag Me'
Thoralf Koss is one of Trappe's allies. He is a 46-year-old teacher who also favors taking the far-right on openly. "You're writing about our mayor's heroic acts?" he shouts into the telephone. "I'll come by in 15 minutes and pick you up." In the car, Koss begins his tirade. He argues that the renaming of the street is yet more proof of how Mayor Gerti Töpfer changes her position depending on which way the wind is blowing. Koss is a member of the town council for the Green Party, although he himself is an independent. He is engaged in a perpetual struggle with Töpfer and is also running for mayor. Koss can hardly contain himself. "I've been fighting the NPD for years, and people try to gag me," he says. Töpfer has accused him of damaging Riesa's reputation, he says, as if he were to blame for the town's image. No matter where she goes in Germany, the mayor apparently complained, the name of Riesa is associated only with neo-Nazis -- because Koss, she said, takes every opportunity to draw people's attention to that fact. "And now Töpfer is being seen as a great fighter against the far-right," Koss complains.

Raising Awareness
Koss stops his car in front of a single-family house barely three blocks from the Deutsche Stimme offices. This is where he is preparing his election campaign. As it happens, he almost didn't manage to secure his candidacy. The local Green Party is angry with him because he supported the NPD in a town council vote -- because he considered their motion, which involved reducing council members' allowances, to be sensible. If the NPD were to finally be banned, he would no longer face such moral dilemmas, Koss says. He wants to use local business tax revenues from the Deutsche Stimme publishing house to fund education programs in Riesa to raise awareness about right-wing extremism. His goal is to make his students immune to propaganda efforts by neo-Nazis, who distribute pamphlets and CDs with music by far-right bands in schoolyards. In the Riesa sports stadium, it becomes clear just how strong the far-right is in the town. The semi-final of the World Cup, where Spain is playing Germany, is being shown on giant screens. Men with shaved heads openly sing the old first verse of the German national anthem, which included the notorious phrase "Deutschland über alles" and which is no longer part of the official version due to its Nazi associations. Nobody seems bothered by their T-shirts featuring images of tanks or their neo-Nazi tattoos. When the German team loses the game, garbage cans start flying through the hall.

Appeal against Neo-Nazis
Given such conditions, Andreas Näther, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party must feel a sense of desperation. He has been involved in the fight against right-wing extremism for years: He already took part in a protest march through Riesa's industrial zone back when Deutsche Stimme moved into its offices there. Näther would surely make a convincing mayoral candidate because of his work taking on the neo-Nazis. Unfortunately, the SPD has not put forward its own candidate for the upcoming election. Näther, a well-built 52-year-old man with a moustache, is a member of the town council and the head of an association that works with young people. Recently he got together with his colleagues from other similar organizations to launch an appeal against the infiltration of youth centers by neo-Nazis. The NPD is getting increasing bold in its attempts to hinder the work that youth clubs are doing to try to teach young people about democracy, says Näther. He says that colleagues of his recently had a run-in with Jasmin Apfel, the wife of NPD politician Holger Apfel. Jasmin Apfel allegedly approached a club for children and young people to try to get involved as a volunteer. As a result, Näther now wants to train his staff in how to deal with supposedly well-meaning parents who in fact want to recruit young people for the NPD under a veneer of respectability.

When asked about the work of Thoralf Koss, who he knows from his time in the opposition movement in the former East Germany, Näther shakes his head. Koss, he says, refused to support his recent appeal, because it did not also condemn left-wing extremism. "And yet we clearly referred to Deutsche Stimme as a problem," Näther says. Amid such disputes, the different political parties have lost sight of their real goal. The NPD has set up its propaganda center in the town and shows no signs of leaving. Many people wish the democratic parties would at least work together in the fight against the right-wing extremists. Meanwhile Gerti Töpfer is hoping for reelection -- and that the neo-Nazi menace will somehow go away by itself. She's been hoping for that for years.



During his rise to and occupancy of the French presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy has regularly announced new law-and-order offensives in the hopes of stoking support among the majority of French voters who say they're scared of crime. Typically, those policies have taken aim at Sarkozy's preferred target: the banlieues, the troubled suburban housing projects that ring most French cities and are populated by a disproportionately high number of minorities. Though divisive, the policies have usually worked — first fueling Sarkozy's rise from crusading Interior Minister to master of the Elysée, then serving as his trump card whenever his support slumped. But this week, Sarkozy turned on a community that has long been the default object of suspicion and disdain throughout Europe: itinerant people including gypsies, travelers and Roma. And by using that small, ostracized group as easy prey in a new anticrime push, Sarkozy has critics charging him with manipulating public concerns of security and immigration for cynical political gain.

On Wednesday, Sarkozy told members of his conservative government that he intends to look into "the problems created by the behavior of certain travelers and Roma," whose nomadic lifestyle leaves them with "no assimilation into [the] communities" they live near. He also said he'd gather with advisers on July 28 for a special Elysée meeting on the issue, which he said falls under the "implacable struggle the government is leading against crime, [and the] veritable war we're going to wage against traffickers and delinquents." Though the vast majority of the (very roughly) estimated 400,000 travelers in France are either French citizens or residents of E.U. countries, critics accuse government officials who have made statements linking the issue to immigration of trying to drum up nationalist support by playing the antiforeigner card. "You can very well be Roma, a traveler, even, at times, French within these communities," government spokesman Luc Chatel said to the press on Wednesday as he explained Sarkozy's motives. "But you'll have to respect the law of the republic."

Those comments came after a weekend of violence in central France, when young men from a community of travelers, enraged at the July 16 shooting of one of their peers by a policeman, rioted through the sleepy village of Saint-Aignan, south of Blois. For two days after 22-year-old Luigi Duquenet was fatally shot while a car he was in charged a police roadblock and allegedly hit an officer, around 50 youths from Duquenet's encampment attacked the Saint-Aignan gendarme station with metal bars and axes and also destroyed small local businesses, burned cars and damaged public property. The situation had calmed by July 18, but many people in France interpreted the violence as evidence that the widely held stereotypes of gypsies as criminals, troublemakers and outcasts are true. That such prejudice endures is partly the fault of France's authorities. Despite laws requiring that towns whose populations exceed 5,000 provide suitable camping grounds for traveler communities, France was recently chided by the Council of Europe for largely ignoring that obligation. Nomadic communities are often relegated to staying outside town walls, usually either in makeshift camps with few facilities supplied to them, or — for the poorest — in shantytowns and squats. That segregation means few urban French know much about travelers or the diversity of the traveling community. The generic label gens du voyage (travelers) covers not only tsigane (roughly "gypsies"), who went to France over the centuries, but also manouches who arrived from Germany in the 19th century, Spanish-origin gitanes and the more recent Roma.

Critics claim that Sarkozy's new hard-line focus seeks to play last week's unrest at Saint-Aignan for political gain. With his approval rating at a personal all-time low of 25%, his government dogged by spending scandals and his Labor Minister, Eric Woerth, ensnared in the intrigue surrounding the inheritance battle between L'Oréal heiresses Liliane and Françoise Bettencourt, detractors say Sarkozy's latest law-and-order charge is simply an attempt to change the topic and score points at the expense of a population that few people are eager to defend. "To better make people forget the scandal he's marred in himself, [Sarkozy] has invented a new diversion with a new category of scapegoat," Green Party legislator Noël Mamère declared on Wednesday night. "He serves up to the good folk of France people who've always been rejected to the margins of society, [and he] plays on confusion by suggesting that all Roma, all travelers, are all foreigners." Opposition pols aren't the only ones crying foul. France's League of Human Rights has decried Sarkozy's "racist stigmatization of Roma and traveler populations through unacceptable amalgams." Samir Mile, spokesman of Voice of Roma, an association defending the rights of France's nomadic communities, told France Info radio on Thursday, "We're preparing to take it right in the face as we always do during political crises," adding that when "France is going poorly, [and] the President is doing badly, he seeks to divert public opinion toward easy targets." This time, the controversy that Sarkozy's new law-and-order pledge has created seems to have replaced the applause that his previous anticrime crusades have provoked. It could be that by targeting travelers — the eternal scapegoat — Sarkozy may find that his unbeatable trump card has finally lost its magic.