Launch of Cardinal Newman Project

Last week I attended the launch of the Cardinal Newman Project at the Norman Power Centre in Ladywood. The project seeks to investigate the impact of Cardinal Newman and his work on the Ladywood area of Birmingham. It also aims to promote intergenerational learning. As well as obtaining information from elderly residents of Ladywood using techniques such as reminiscence, the children from the Oratory Primary School will be filming the various events and visits to produce a DVD of the project.

I was honoured to meet Father Sebastian and Father Anton from the Birmingham Oratory. Despite being openly secular in my beliefs, both were keen to hear about my involvement in the project and in particular my views on the area. I also met several parishioners of the Oratory and residents and management of the Norman Power Centre.

As part of the project steering group I have set up a simple website for the project to promote the work and events that are taking place. The site should make it easy for members of the steering group to give updates and for residents to contribute.

There was a lot of excitement about the potential visit to Birmingham of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. If confirmed, the visit will bring a whole new meaning to the project and hopefully result in many more people benefiting from the project's work.


More Violence in Brum – Ban EDL Protests Now

For the third time in three months violence erupted in Birmingham City Centre as a result of the English Defence League protests. The demonstrations, supposedly against "islamic fundamentalism" have instigated counter-demonstrations from Unite Against Fascism. On each occasion the "protests" have attracted both Islamophobes and young Asian lads, with both groups seemingly intent on causing trouble under the banner of free speech.

Yesterday members of the EDL were bussed in from around the country. As I blogged about here and here, leading Liberal Democrats and other leading city figures had called for the protest to be banned. It's now time for Mike Whitby to take a look at what went on in our city and ban these thugs.

West Midlands Police seem to be proclaiming yesterday as a success as violence was "limited" to certain pockets across the city centre away from the main shopping area.

That is outrageous.

The fact violence erupted at several locations in the city including Digbeth and New Street is not a good sign. It shows this went beyond any organised protest. Look at some of the photographs in the media such as the Daily Mail, which shows EDL supporters waving Israeli flags and a sign proclaiming "NO MORE MOSQUES". Rather makes a mockery of EDL's claim that they are a non-racist organisation.

The media coverage has brought shame to the city again and if we are not careful, we will get a reputation for tolerating racism. Momentum is a very dangerous thing - and right now Birmingham has it.

We need a ban on any further EDL protests - and we need it NOW.

UPDATE: You can now sign a petition calling on West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council to ban future extremist "protests" in the city centre. Enough is enough.


EDL March To Go Ahead

Birmingham protests August 2009The "anti Islamic extremism" protest from the English Defence League will go ahead as planned on Saturday on our city's streets, despite calls from Deputy Leader, Lib Dem Councillor Paul Tilsley to ban it. But plans for a "Birmingham United" concert backed by John Hemming MP amongst others have been cancelled after a lack of support from the Police and City Council.

Exact plans for the EDL march are unclear, although Police have been successful in restricting gatherings in the Bullring shopping area. Suggestions of a protest march around the Broad Street area have been discussed, as has a march to Lancaster Circus. What we do know is the EDL are bussing in people from all across the country.

Let's remind ourselves of the events of 8th August again. It concerns me that although families and children shopping in the Bullring will be protected from a potential repeat performance, the significant number of residents of the Broad Street area will not be.

Throw into the mix the England match means the Broad Street bars are likely to be packed - and all I can see is potential trouble.

See my previous post for why I think this protest should be banned.


Ban The Protests. Keep Our City Safe.

Birmingham riots of August 2009The City Centre Neighbourhood Forum has received a response from West Midlands Police regarding the planned protests from EDL and UAF (English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism) in Birmingham on 5th September.

In the response, the Chief Superintendent says, “The ability to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one we are in no position to make any political or moral judgement about.”

As a Liberal and believer in free speech, I appreciate this statement. But hold on, are we asking the Police to take a political or moral judgement? No! We are asking them to ensure violence does not erupt on our streets for the second time in a month. We are asking them to keep residents of the city centre, shoppers and visitors safe on what will be a busy Saturday afternoon.

What concerns me is these further comments from the Chief Superintendent: “At this stage we believe two groups intend to protest peacefully, and would urge those seeking to use the situation to commit criminal acts to think carefully about their involvement.”

Intend to protest peacefully?

Let's remind ourselves of the events of 8th August. These two so-called peaceful protests in different locations quickly turned sour and led to over 30 arrests in ugly scenes that I never want to see repeated on our city's streets.

A repeat set of protests, held so soon after the last and very deliberately on the day of an England football match, WILL cause further trouble, of that I have no doubt. It is a deliberate call-to-action for all those who are “up for a ruck” and I am disappointed the Police are not taking this viewpoint.

Ban the EDL and UAF protests. Keep our streets safe.

Join the Birmingham United Facebook Group


Trouble Erupts in Birmingham City Centre

Trouble in Birmingham city centre

We'd been expecting it all week (see coverage on The Stirrer) and today trouble did indeed erupt in Birmingham City Centre.

Details are sketchy at present and currently only reported via Twitter. My thanks to @adambc82 who let me reproduce his photo here, taken from his city centre apartment. He tweeted "Riots in Birmingham City Centre, right outside my flat. Smashed windows, bottles flying, riot police everywhere. No idea what's going on."

It would appear the violence is in response to today's planned anti-Islamic extremism protest in the city centre. This was a follow-up to the events of 4th July which I've blogged about previously (the videos are worth watching. I'm told a counter anti-fascism protest was also held earlier today. Exactly who was involved or why things escalated is not clear at present.

I'm told from numerous sources things have calmed down now, but I can still hear the police helicopters watching over the city. More when I know it.

Video of riots - this does not look good

Video of protest earlier in the day

Mainstream press start reporting - Birmingham Post and Daily Mail - both with disturbing images

The story hit the BBC amongst others on Sunday. All reports seem to indicate the police handled the situation well. There were 33 arrests and 2 injuries.


Anti Islamic Extremist Demo in Birmingham

These disturbing videos tell part of the story of what happened in Birmingham city centre on Saturday. In the first video there appears to be something like a small explosion after 7.5 minutes.

There's been very little media coverage of this, surprising considering the content of the videos and sheer numbers of police on show.

I should just add that these videos were not made by me (!) and are taken directly from YouTube.