Anti-Islam group banned after 'threats of violence'
THE leader of the Stop Mosque Gladstone group has come out swinging, labelling the council's acting chief executive officer Mark Holmes a "disgrace to our country".
The strong words came after Gladstone Regional Council knocked back a booking to hold a meeting at Calliope RSL Hall amid fears of violence.
The Gladstone Region Safe Communities intended to hold a meeting at the venue Friday at 6pm so its followers could get a better understanding about objecting to the proposed Islamic Centre at Gladstone.
But in the interest of "public safety" the council said it had made the "difficult decision" to cancel the group's booking.
"The group itself has posted that disruptions, possibly of a violent nature, could be experienced at its meeting," acting mayor Chris Trevor said.
"The council has a duty of care to promote public safety and to ensure that public assets are not damaged and, on this occasion, did not wish to hire out a public venue for a meeting which had the potential to escalate into an incident the community would find abhorrent."
But in a message to its 270 Facebook followers, Gladstone Region Safe Communities claimed it had organised a "peaceful" information forum and that any threats of violence had come from "detractors".
MORE ON KIM VUGA |
The group labelled the council's decision to cancel the booking a "political attack", unjust, discriminatory, shameful, "denying of freedoms" and a "terrible thing" for democracy.
"A number of our community contacts had reported to us on Tuesday that a group of local people had been making threats of violence and discussing plans to disrupt our peaceful forum," the post read.
"The council has responded to those threats by cancelling our booking without any error identified on our part."
But this isn't the first time groups against the proposed Islamic Centre have been denied a venue, with previous rallies organised by the leader of Stop the Mosque Gladstone, Kim Vuga, suffering a similar fate.
Ms Vuga suggested had the group changed its name to Hizb ut-Tahrir (a controversial Islamic organisation), the council would have approved its booking. Although Ms Vuga said the council's decision showed it had "picked a side", plans for the meeting would still go ahead out the front of the hall.
Cr Trevor said councillors did not want to be seen favouring any sides.