A recent protest in Bolton against a proposed mosque again demonstrates the coordinated efforts of the far-right. Local press put the figure at 100 far-right protesters, against 150 counter-protesters. The Guardian reported more than 100 far-right protesters. Anti-fascist protesters stated that less than 100 far-right protesters were present.

A poster for the event had welcomed national flags. One Facebook post connected to the protest had written: “Anti mosque,pro Brexit and anti Labour and Cliff Morris banners and flags especially welcome.” Cliff Morris is the local council leader. Organiser Bryan Morgan said: “Today was about highlighting the corruption of the council, the Islamification of the town, the mosque-building programme.”

The organisers denied that this was a ‘racist’ protest. Yet photos from the event clearly showed Nazi-saluting members of the national socialist movement of National Action stood beside the Pie and Mash Squad. Also present were the North West Infidels (NWI). The NWI flag displayed at the protest depicts a masked man with a Celtic Cross logo – imagery popular with white supremacists.

The Scottish Defence League had promoted the event online.

The North West Division of the English Defence League used its social media channels to promote the event.

Others marched with a banner promoting a blog site which promises to teach individuals: “How to fight mosque planning applications.” ‘Mosque Block’ has dedicated several blogs to the proposed mosque in Bolton. One post in particular provides individuals with template responses to frame their objections. Their material also appears on the official homepage of Pegida UK. For their part, Pegida UK has used their Facebook page to direct supporters to the blog on multiple occassions.

Nor is the first time that such a banner has appeared at a protest in the area. A Facebook post on October 27, 2016 confirms a previous use of the banner. Again, the very promotional material used to advertise the protest features the ‘Mosque Block’ banner.

During the protest, a man was photographed lifting his clothing to reveal a crude swastika tattoo. Captured in the photo was a poppy appeal badge still pinned to his jacket. Others held up a St George flag with ‘Drain the swamp Mr Trump’ written upon it. Others showed their opposition in the small printed statements.

In opposition, were the sounds of ‘Nazi scum, off our streets!’ chants amid Unite Against Fascism placards. Representatives of Bolton and District Trade Council also attended the counter-demonstration.

Both sets of protesters had largely dispersed after 90 minutes.

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police confirmed that no arrests had been made.

Cllr Nick Peel, executive member for the Environment at Bolton Council, criticised the march. He said: “One of our most enshrined values is freedom of worship to for one section of the community to protest against worship facilities for another section is very un-British.” But he defended their right to hold such a protest.

Following the protest, the ‘Bolton Says ‘NO’ To Mosques & Corrupt Bolton Councillors’ Facebook page accused the Bolton News of being in ‘collusion’ with the ‘corrupt’ council. A comment which typifies their predilection for conspiracies. A Facebook post written yesterday evening indicates that the anti-mosque protesters will focus their attention on the upcoming council meeting this Wednesday. It ends on the claim that “we will be there in numbers”.

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