Putson residents came together on Friday 19th to protest plans for a Muslim day centre on Holme Lacy Road.
Around 60 people attended a meeting at the Saxon Hall community centre to hear of plans that would see Hereford Islamic Society operating a members-only day centre from a former retail premises near Tesco Express.
Two police officers were in attendance throughout the meeting, much to the frustration of one of the organisers, who was constantly having to self-censor the racist comments that seemed to be forever on the tip of her tongue.
“Can you go now?” she repeatedly asked officers, in hope of being allowed to go off on a bigoted rant.
Audience members were urged by speakers from the top table to keep their objections to a purely practical level and were encouraged to bring up the issues of traffic, parking and noise.
Any objections of the grounds of race or religion, it was implied, would hinder the ‘respectability’ of the campaign.
Some moderate members of the audience did seem to care little for the race or religion on the applicants. Others however commented that allowing ‘them’ to get a foothold in Putson would mean ‘they’ would inevitably spread across the whole city.
As the police left towards the end of the meeting, and a check was made that no Hereford Times reporter was present, audience members were encouraged to ‘speak their mind’; racism was now allowed and encouraged.
There is little doubt that the location of the proposed Muslim day centre is unsuitable for the level of traffic it is likely to attract, and planning officers are expected to recommend its rejection (council officials are privately in talks to see whether Hereford Islamic Society might be able to share space with the notorious Freedom Church in Coningsby Street).
An associate of the Islamic society has privately, in correspondence with the Heckler, expressed disappointment that the day centre applicants have done little to introduce themselves to their would-be neighbours.
But what was evident from Friday’s meeting was that had a Christian church of a similar size taken on the old Magenta building on Holme Lacy Road they would be unlikely to face the same stiff opposition.
All three ward councillors and Hereford MP, Jesse Norman, had been invited to the meeting but declined to attend.