'Mass gatherings' a far-right plot to exploit coronavirus crisis, Sheffield anti-racism campaigners claim

Plans to hold mass gatherings in two Sheffield parks this weekend are part of a far-right inspired plot to exploit the coronavirus crisis, anti-racism campaigns have claimed.

By Dan Hayes
Friday, 15th May 2020, 3:06 pm
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 4:08 pm

According to information shared widely online, the gatherings will be held this Saturday, May 16 in Norfolk and Endcliffe parks in Sheffield, as well as in other green spaces in cities across the country.

The events are being organised by the UK Freedom Movement, a group linked to far-right political organisation Britain First, to protest against what they call the ‘unlawful lockdown’.

But Sheffield anti-racism campaigners Sheffield Stand Up To Racism say the protests are a cynical attempt by far-right groups to exploit the crisis and have urged people not to attend.

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They claimed one of the protest’s organisers, Jayda Fransen of Britain First, was jailed for religiously aggravated harassment, has participated in several anti-Muslim demonstrations and has met with fascist organisations in Poland.

And they allege another founder, Richard Iman, has called the religion of Islam ‘evil’, has organised pro-Tommy Robinson marches and is linked to the far-right group the Football Lads Alliance.

Sahail Chohan, from Sheffield Stand Up To Racism, said: “The so-called Freedom Movement has nothing to do with freedom as most people understand it to be.

“It is a despicable attempt by far right-wing and fascists who are trying to do here what Trump supporters have been doing in the USA – street mobilisations to dictate an agenda which runs counter to the interests of ordinary working people and those most affected by Covid 19.

A runner is pictured in Norfolk Park, with Sheffield City Centre as a backdrop, as the Coronavirus outbreak continues..7th April 2019 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

“The overwhelming public majority worldwide who want by counter this killer virus by staying at home, protecting our NHS and frontline and essential workers and save lives.

“These assemblies are about division and hate against many people from black and Asian communities who have died as front line workers. That’s why they must be opposed.”

As well as Sheffield, events are also being planned for London, Southampton, Nottingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Plymouth and Barnstaple.

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said their officers would be patrolling the parks this weekend and had the power to disperse gatherings should they need to.