England’s biggest St George’s Day parade is facing the axe after councillors said many of those attending it were racist.
For the last decade up to 15,000 have assembled in the town of West Bromwich under the slogan ‘Forever England, For Everyone’.
Children and parents from all over the country parade through the Black Country town waving St George flags and marching to rousing anthems such as Jerusalem.
Organisers say one of the aims is to reclaim the Saint George Cross from Right-wingers and make it a source of pride for all.
But last night the local council, Labour-controlled Sandwell, voted to withdraw its support for the parade. Funds will go to support a Party in the Park instead.
It leaves parade organisers with what they say is the impossible task of raising £10,000 to cover their costs with only a few weeks to go.
In a letter to the organisers, one councillor, Yvonne Davies, said the parade created an ‘unhealthy atmosphere’ and inspired young boys to be racist.
She wrote: ‘It is not only the parade which is the problem, but the tribal excitement it creates.’
The West Bromwich St George’s Day parade started in 1998 and began as a fairly modest affair with 5,000 turning up. Now three times that attend the two-mile parade in April. Fire Service and Scout Association bands have played, the British Legion lends its support and each year ex-servicemen attend.
A volunteer dresses up as St George and rides with the marchers, children paint their faces with the St George Cross and there are activities such as medieval jousting.
There have been some problems–last year organisers had to clamp down on drinking in the street and a band with hard-Right roots joined in without their permission.
Councillor Davies wrote in her letter: ‘I am sure most are very respectful and law-abiding, however some are distasteful in the extreme and wish to divide and separate people from each other.’
She said she had once been abused by youths who ‘had been emboldened by the parade and thought racist chants were funny’.
‘I have seen first hand how the parade (albeit unintentionally) creates an unhealthy atmosphere.’
At a meeting of Sandwell council cabinet last night, her colleagues sided with her and decided against backing the parade. Instead there will be the Party in the Park, a concert in the Town Hall and St George Flags will be flown on all of the council’s buildings.
Trevor Collins of the Stone Cross Saint George Association, which organises the parade, said: ‘To suggest the parade is racist is ridiculous and offensive. When you see the kids, the dogs, everyone out having fun, it’s really a beautiful sight. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, green, brown or whatever, everyone’s welcome.
‘The council’s decision means we have to foot the bills for insurance and security. We’ve got to come up with £10,000 in two months which seems impossible.’
Another organiser Mark Cowles said the parades had raised £7,000 for charity. He added that, as well as losing out on council support, they had probably missed the deadline for applying for road closures.
‘All we wanted to do was organise a fun, family-friendly day for everyone that celebrates being English,’ he said. ‘We have been approached by extreme Right-wing groups and we have turned them away.’
Mostly racist thugs.
A HUGE annual procession through the centre of High Wycombe to mark a Muslim holy day will take place in March.
Rolling road closures will be put on place whilst the procession to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad takes place around several streets in the town centre, on Sunday, March 15.
It will start from the Green Street Mosque, travel down Desborough Road and Bridge Street and onto Oxford Road and on to Castle Street.
From there worshippers will walk down Corporation Road, turn right along the High Street and into Paul’s Row, then through the underpass and up to Wycombe Hospital where they will stop for short prayers for the sick.
From here they will make their way back to the Mosque in Green Street.
Roads closures will start from 11.30am and last until 2.30pm.
Sarah Widows, of Buckinghamshire County Council’s Highways Department, said the parade is expected to take about two hours.
She said: “Rolling road closures will be in place. Police will stop traffic to allow the parade to pass, before reopening the road and allowing traffic to flow again.”
Not a racist thug in sight.