Known far-right activists from Europe who were on their way to an anti-Muslim rally in Birmingham where they were due to speak have been detained at airports.
Among those stopped were three Polish nationals including Jacek Miedlar, 28, an anti-Semitic priest, and fellow activist Piotr Rybak. The two were set to speak at the rally organized by far-right group Britain First.
Dutch national Edwin Wagensveld who heads his country’s anti-Islam movement Pegida was also held at about the same time at Birmingham airport.
Britain First reported the detentions. The group describes itself as “committed to maintaining and strengthening Christianity as the foundation of our society and culture” and has told its followers about a coming “civil war” with Islam. The group’s leaders said the detentions by border authorities are illegal.
Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen told the local media: “They have not committed any crime, it’s completely ridiculous.”
It is not yet clear whether the detentions have anything to do with last week’s three terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. Muslims were targeted in Finsbury Park, north London where one man was killed and dozens were injured.
Miedlar is described by anti-racism campaigners as “fanatical hate preacher” while he calls his critics as “leftists” opposed to “Polish patriotism.”
Miedlar, who’s from Wroclaw in western Poland, has a significant following in his country. His local Catholic church has, however, suspended him for the content of his nationalist sermons. He has continued to address tens of thousands of people at rightwing rallies. His speeches target the political left, “Islamic aggression” and immigration. They invoke the “warriors of great Poland” and are usually accompanied by chants of “God, honor, fatherland.”
Miedlar was also accused last year for describing Jews a “cancer” that had “swept Poland” during a rally he addressed in Bialystok. He was absolved of alleged hate-speech offenses. He was also detained earlier this year while trying to enter the UK for another Britain First rally in Telford. He was asked to return home.
Rybak was indicted last year for inciting hatred after burning an effigy of an orthodox Jew during a protest against Muslim immigration. Wagensveld was also arrested last year for failing to take off a child ‘s hat shaped like a pig while protesting against immigrant centers that were housing refugees.
Anti-racism campaigners insist Miedlar and his supporters could “radicalize” some of the 830,000-strong Poles living in the UK and have urged British authorities to intervene before their arrival.