By Shelley Marsden
THOUSANDS have taken part in anti-racism rallies over the weekend in Belfast and Derry.
The rallies were in response to a spate of racist attacks in Northern Ireland, as well as controversy over Pastor James McConnell comments about Muslims, calling Islam “heathen” and “satanic”.
The Stand Up and Rally Against Racism event in Belfast on Saturday is believed to have attracted around 4,000 people.
Anna Lo – the Alliance Party’s MLA for South Belfast, who was born in Hong Kong, and is the UK’s first ever parliamentarian from the Chinese community, spoke at the event.
She told the crowd at Belfast City Hall that it was the duty of every citizen to stand up against racism and sectarianism, and that the number of people at the rally showed how many members of the population wanted a “diverse society”.
About 100 supporters came to Saturday’s anti-racism rally in Derry, including Mayor of Derry Martin Reilly and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan. A member of the local Muslim community, Sameh Hassan, addressed the rally.
The following day, two racist attacks took place within hours of each other in Belfast.
Two men, aged 24 and 38, were attacked at their home in Parkmount Street at about 3:15pm on Sunday, the younger of the two the subject of racist taunts by a group.
The group had been outside the house but two managed to follow the 24-year-old and force their way in. A 38-year-old man who lives in the house was also attacked. The 24-year-old resident was taken to hospital where he was treated for minor cuts and bruises and an injury to his foot.
Earlier at the same property, Pakistani native Muhammad Asif Khattak had talked to the media about an overnight attack in which his front window was smashed in.