Banners calling for ‘No More Immigration’ and ‘Jobs and Homes for British’ turned a quiet Sunday afternoon in Spalding into a stage for anti-immigration protestors.
With the town’s population of 30,000, organisers had expected hundreds but half an hour before the protest was due to start there seemed to be more police in town than members of the public.
About 150 people gathered in front of the Shanghai Garden restaurant in the Market Place. They had travelled from Holbeach, Pinchbeck and Donington as well as Skegness and Boston to support speakers, claiming they were not racist but lack of government control on immigration was to blame for unemployment and anti-social behaviour in the town and across the country.
Dean Everitt, who organised a similar protest in Boston last year, celebrated the fact the Spalding meeting was being held 45 years to the day since the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powell that led to his controversial dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet by Conservative party leader Edward Heath.
References to lack of hospital beds, school places and neighbourhoods ‘changed beyond recognition’ were just as relevant today as then, Mr Everitt said.
He said he was overwhelmed with the support he was getting at the moment. He said: “People are asking why isn’t the council doing stuff – why aren’t the police dealing with these issues?”
Other speakers included Bob McAuley, of the Boston Protest Group, UKIP candidate for Spalding Alan Jesson and Chris Pain, UKIP candidate for Wainfleet and Burgh-le-Marsh.
In spite of their “peaceful protest”, there had been some worried glances from foreign passers-by. A Chinese mother and her anxious daughter asked an officer what was going on, to be told it was a public meeting that would soon be over.
Earlier, a Polish woman sat in the Market Place said she did not feel threatened. She said: “I’m sat here to enjoy the sunshine and relax. The same problems are in Poland with Russian and Ukranian migrants.
“But I work hard and pay my taxes. Where I work there are a lot more Europeans, but that’s because the English don’t want that work.”
While police officers watched the protest from a distance around the Market Place, it was business as usual for others on Operation Trunk – targeting street drinking around the town.
Insp Jim Tyner said he was pleased it had passed peacefully. Insp Tyner said: “People have been able to make the points they wanted to. However, I am disappointed they said nothing was being done about anti-social behaviour.
“Responses on our Twitter account and in the local media say quite the opposite. If people think not enough is being done they should tell us so we can get the right people in the right places.”
Two days earlier, a celebration of Spalding’s cultural diversity took place at Springfields Events Centre.
Polish-born Diana Gajek, one of the organisers, said the fact it was held before the protest was a coincidence but “perfect timing”: “It’s important people from different communities help each other, get to know each other and have a nice time.”
For videos of the speeches: ww.spaldingtoday.co.uk/news/crime-and-courts/ no-more-immigration-call-at-spalding-protest-1-5023021
‘I am going to stab you’ threat to Spalding mum
A mother told protestors in Spalding how her Eastern European neighbours threatened her when she complained about noise.
Angela Cannon said: “I’ve lived in Spalding since 1974 and came across anti-social behaviour in 2010-2011.
“I was awoken one night by horrendous screaming, running up and down stairs and bashing on the walls.
“My disabled son, who has no speech, was absolutely terrified.
“I’ve been round 23 times and it’s quiet at the moment.
“When I have been round I have been greeted with ‘I am going to stab you’.
“I have always tried to be friendly but have been met by eight drunken men calling me names I would be arrested for.”
Yesterday, a debate was taking place in parliament relating to the e-petition entitled ‘Stop mass immigration from Bulgarian and Romanians in 2014’ with 100,000 signatures.
Ministers are concerned immigration issues will impact the local council elections in May.
We’ve had enough of immigrants say locals
South Holland residents have nailed their colours firmly to the anti-immigration mast in claiming that the area has been ruined by an influx of Eastern Europeans.
Several people told the Free Press they were afraid to go out in Spalding at night for fear of falling victim to crime and some believed the situation would worsen once Bulgaria and Romania join the EU next year.
Michele Tilley (46) from Pinchbeck said: “I don’t have a problem with the immigrants themselves and most of them are lovely people.
“But I have a problem with the number of them coming into our country, contributing nothing and draining this country dry.”
Doug Hicks (68) from Holbeach said: “Spalding has changed dramatically over the last ten years and it’s got to the point where me and my wife don’t really feel like going out at night because we feel intimidated.”
Patricia Sands (66) from Pinchbeck said: “Immigration has changed the nature of our area and we’ve got more to come from Romania and Bulgaria.”
‘I feel threatened by anti-immigrants talk’
A Bakkavor factory worker (25) living in Spalding said she felt “threatened” by Sunday’s protest.
The woman, originally from Poland but who asked not to be named, added claims that Eastern Europeans were moving here just for the UK’s welfare system were untrue.
She said: “Sunday was the first time I’d heard about racism towards Eastern Europeans and I felt threatened by it.
“The jobs we’re doing are ones English people don’t want, but we still pay our taxes and it’s not true to say that we’re just living off benefits.”
Meanwhile, there was mixed news from traders after one store said the protest had hit sales but another reported steady business during the afternoon.
There was also a good turnout at St Mary and St Nicolas Church where about 250 people attended a memorial concert for former Spalding vet Roy Trawford (90) who passed away in January.