NATIONAL Front protesters and anti facist groups had to be kept apart by police at the site of a proposed new mosque in Sunderland.
The NF demonstration against the building of the mosque in St Mark’s Road has led to heightened tensions in the area.
Police separated the two groups on either side of the street as concerned residents looked on.
Despite the tensions, police today said they were able to peacefully disperse the protesters shortly after 1pm on Saturday.
Officers were stationed outside the Chester Road mosque for the remainder of the weekendand in the city centre where the NF demo carried on.
Local NF activists were joined by others from across the country as they argued that the mosque posed a threat to the community and the safety of local children.
Simon Biggs, the group’s North East regional organiser, said: “It’s a mosque and it’s alien to this country. They’re still going ahead with it despite 1,400 people complaining about it.
“There are no British-born Muslims in my eyes. They don’t belong here and Islam is alien to us.”
Gary Duncan, 42, from Sunderland, speaking on behalf of the anti-fascists, said: “It doesn’t matter what they say is the reason they’re against the mosque, it’s all about racism and that’s it. They’re not complaining about the church down the road.
“We’ve come to stand in opposition to these people who have been bussed in from all over the country to poison Sunderland with their racism.”
As some 100 people gathered on either side of the road, concerned residents of St Mark’s Road watched from the doors of their homes.
A spokesman for the residents who had initially lodged complaints about the proposed mosque said: “This is what we’ve been trying to avoid. We’ve been fighting against the mosque on issues of localities but this is what we predicted would happen if Sunderland City Council went ahead with the mosque.
“We’re trying to keep the community together but we feel it’s going to divide the community.”
Tariq Kahn, of the Tyne and Wear Multicultural Centre, said he plans to worship at the new mosque and would be happy to meet with residents to discuss their concerns.
He said: “My family have lived here since 1947, no on can say I don’t belong here.
“The mosque is open for everyone and it will be a treasure that Sunderland can be proud of.”
The new mosque has caused controversy since plans were first introduced and police had to guard a council meeting earlier this month when the project was finally given the green light.