Billy Charlton trial: Protester says comparing Grenfell Tower fire tragedy to events in Sunderland was a 'bad analogy'
A protester accused of stirring up racial hatred has admitted comparing theÂ Grenfell fire tragedy to what was happening in his home cityÂ was a "bad analogy".
William Charlton, known as Billy, is accused of targeting "immigrants, Asians, black people and police" during a series of public speeches in Sunderland and causing a rise in racial crime and disorder in the city.
Prosecutors claim he hid his "racist agenda" under a "cloak of respectability" that he wanted to protect women and children from attacks.
The 54-year-old, of no fixed address, denies six charges of stirring up racial hatred and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
Jurors have heard Charlton made repeated references to "cheap cladding" during one of his public talks last summer, just a month after the Grenfell tragedy.
On his second day in the witness box, Charlton told the court: "It was an unfortunate comparison.
"What it basically means is if you nip it in the bud, it saves it from growing into a bigger thing.
"If that man who was responsible for Grenfell had chucked a couple of buckets of water over the burning fridge, the rest wouldn't have went up.
"If the police nipped our problems in the bud in Sunderland, then they wouldn't have had us on the streets.
"It was a bad analogy, a bad comparison."
Charlton told jurors his references to police during speeches were because he believed forces should share more information about reported crimes or incidents, so that the public can protect themselves.
He said: "They should be putting it out, not covering it up."
Charlton said the marches in Sunderland started after a woman claimed she had been attacked by foreign men.
He told the court: "The only thing I want is peaceful demonstration, the only thing I want is to get the word out there that people are attacking women in Sunderland, drugging their drinks.
"All I'm trying to do is get that message across."
Charlton told jurors he had seen photographs of the woman after she claimed she was attacked.
He told the court: "She was black and blue from neck to ankles, that doesn't happen by going to bed consensually.
"This woman was black and blue, front to back and top to bottom. It was visibly upsetting."
Charlton said he had instructed those wishing to participate in marches not to wear or carry any offensive flags or wear clothing that could be seen as right-wing or offensive as he did not want that to become a "sideshow" from the real aims of protecting the Sunderland community.
Charlton said his references to rapist immigrants during speeches referred to "unvetted" criminals, and "bad apples", who went on to carry out attacks, not any race or religion as a whole.
He told jurors: "My choice of words might not be the best choice of words but I am speaking as a man off the street, I'm not a politician. That is the way I feel.
"People try and expand on the words I have used but those words are specifically about the people who commit offences.
"I don't care what people say, I am not a racist.
"It is not meant in any other way.
"I'm meaning specifically people raping, drugging and abusing the people of Sunderland."
Charlton told jurors he left the campaign that sparked the marches after organisations such as Britain First were rumoured to have got involved and that threats were made towards him as a result.
Charlton denies all charges.
The trial continues.