Kingston march organiser denies any responsibility
The man who organised the peaceful, but noisy, march against Islamic extremism that preceded the attack on the mosque said he was not responsible for what happened.
Dozens of chanting protesters, including teenagers, followed a giant red poppy from Hampton Wick into Clarence Street, waving English Defence League (EDL) flags, in the hours before the violent attack.
Many went to the King’s Tun pub where the prospect of going to the mosque was discussed before a rowdy mob of about 20 to 30 people walked up into East Road, where the mosque is.
During the attack that followed, EDL chants were made.
March organiser Ben Baty, who has been inside Kingston Mosque to install telecoms, said: “The attackers are nothing to do with me. They have got themselves into this mess.”
He said the march had not been organised by the EDL but by him, as a reaction to poppy burning.
He said: “I don’t know any of them personally and I think they are stupid for doing it, it was counter-productive.”
All the defendants denied being connected to racism or the EDL and said it was their first protest.
Claims that extremist Islam was connected to Kingston Mosque have been denied by committee members. Ben Baty said: “You do research on Kingston Mosque and certain people there have been extremist.”
Mosque members admitted hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza visited in 2004, years before he became notorious, and would often strike up conversations with younger worshippers.
But they said he was never given permission to preach inside.
Committee member Akram Ansari said: “He used to come here to pray. After the prayers he might talk to people and give his points of view.”
Imam Sheikh Abdessamad said: “Our Majid never sanctioned him in any way.”
The mosque has made huge strides in opening up since 2004 when a bitter feud erupted over how it was run, including claims of nepotism.
Former councillor Steve Mama said: “The mosque has enriched the community. It has taught residents to be tolerant and to accept others.
“The Christian attitude is to value others’ opinions.”