A MEMBER of a Cheshire West-based far right group made a Nazi salute in Ellesmere Port during a memorial for murdered soldier Drummer Lee Rigby, it is claimed.
Drummer Rigby, 25, was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south-east London, last month in a suspected terrorist attack – which has led to a fierce far-right backlash in some areas.
Cheshire West and Chester councillor Ben Powell saw footage which appeared online – and has since been taken down – of one of the men at the event organised by West Cheshire English Defence League (EDL) raising his arm in a Nazi salute on Monday, May 27.
He says another was heard using a racist term at the march.
Cllr Powell said: “This sort of behaviour is unacceptable anywhere, but especially so near to the cenotaph, which commemorates local soldiers who bravely fought and died in the Second World War.”
The administrator of the group’s Facebook page had appealed for members to be ‘on best behaviour’ because the police would be present.
A spokesman for the group told the Chronicle that the man later claimed the gesture was ‘misunderstood’ and that he was ‘pointing to heaven in memory of a loved one’.
A statement posted on it’s Facebook page the next day said: “Cheshire West EDL unreservedly apologise for any offence caused to anybody by the silly man’s gesture at our respect demo on Monday.”
After gathering from 11.30am at the Thomas Telford pub on Whitby Road, the group of up to 30 supporters moved on three hours later to Civic Square where it’s claimed the gesture was made close to the war memorial for soldiers who gave their lives fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
A planned meeting at the Phoenix club, Cromwell Road, on Wednesday, May 29, was cancelled and the doors to attendees padlocked. One man reported he was asked by police why he had attended.
One member on Facebook, Jay Gough, wrote: “there’s ment 2 b a mosque on the stanney so we will march 2 there next time av got a few more heads on board.”
The group also plan to lay a wreath when Lee Rigby’s funeral takes place at the war memorial, Civic Square.
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of United Against Facism, said: “We oppose the idea of hatred and division and capitalising on the murder of Lee Rigby.
“We urge people to come together in unity and to reject fascism and the division the EDL and other groups have called for.”
Simon Cressy, a spokesman for campaign group Hope Not Hate, added: “The fact that they are prepared to use Lee Rigby’s name for political gain is disgusting, especially after his family came out and made a statement saying he wouldn’t have wanted that.”