Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Anna Lo tells Belfast anti-racism rally: I'm staying put

Alliance Party's Anna Lo speaks at the anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall
Alliance Party's Anna Lo speaks at the anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall

A defiant Anna Lo has vowed to stay in Northern Ireland as thousands of people gathered for a rally demanding an end to racist attacks and abuse.

The Hong Kong-born Alliance Party MLA has been inundated with flowers, messages of support and well wishes since her emotional outpouring about the rise in attacks on minority communities – and being on the receiving end of some vicious racist abuse herself.

Ms Lo was the centre of attention at an anti-racism rally in Belfast at the weekend, with the public keen to vocalise their support and have pictures taken with the UK's only Chinese-born parliamentarian.

"I'm not going to go away," she told the crowd at City Hall.

While the popular MLA will remain living in Belfast, she has again confirmed she is to quit Stormont and will not run for re-election in 2016 because of "tribal politics" and repeated her calls for Peter Robinson to make a full public apology following the Pastor McConnell row.

Love against hate was the message from the thousands of people taking part in two anti-racism demonstrations in Belfast and Londonderry at the weekend.

Outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday speakers at the 'Emergency Rally Against Racism', organised on Facebook by activists, included Ms Lo, who last week said racist abuse had influenced her decision not to seek re-election. The rallies also followed controversy over First Minister Peter Robinson voicing support for Belfast pastor, James McConnell, who caused outrage when he described Islam as "heathen" and "satanic".

People gathered for Saturday's demonstration held banners bearing slogans such as 'Say no to racism' and 'Why hate?'. Iranian-born chef Sharam Nemeti (39) who has been living in Belfast for the last 10 years was among the crowd at the Belfast rally.

He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words: "I am Muslim, don't panic".

"People think a Muslim is a terrorist, I want to show people I am a Muslim person and that it doesn't matter which colour, which kind you are," he said.

"I was attacked in my house in 2011 and it made me homeless. They stabbed me in my heart, my head and my back, in Belfast. Racism. Fascism. They didn't like my colour."

Meanwhile, Patrick Yu, chief executive of the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) told the Belfast Telegraph, Stormont must publish the long-awaited Racial Equality Strategy, which has been stalled since 2007.

"We also need to be re-write our code of conduct to regulate our politicians," he added.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme director of Amnesty International, agreed.

"There has been political failure at the highest level to offer leadership to combat racism in Northern Ireland," he said.

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