Birmingham mosque issues statement after police attacked during crackdown on illegal street vendors
A mosque in the Small Heath area of Birmingham has issued a statement following deplorable abuse suffered by West Midlands Police officers by a hostile crowd during a crackdown on illegal street vendors last night (16 April).
Police and Trading Standards teams were allegedly subjected to physical and verbal abuse around 1:30am on Sunday which has lead Green Lane Masjid, which is situated near the scene of the disorder, to issue a statement condemning the antisocial behaviour.
Since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which sees the Muslim community fasting from dawn to dusk, a stretch of Coventry Road in Small Heath has seen a shocking rise in street vendors who operate from 7pm until the early hours of the morning.
Authorities decided to take action this weekend after weeks of complaints from local residents about antisocial behaviour, illegal trading, hygiene issues, noise pollution which includes music blaring from cars and fireworks being set off, tons of litter piling up every morning, a huge increase of traffic that impacts public transport and emergency services which have to take diversions, and dangerous volumes of people crammed into a small space.
However, the action by authorities was met with hostility and forced to flee the scene as a large groups of young men surrounded and badgered police officers.
Shocking mobile phone footage of officers being verbally abused by mobs of angry young men in Coventry Road, and police vehicles being kicked are circulating across social media platforms.
The shocking video clips show police being forced to flee towards St Andrews Shopping Park, which is opposite Green Lane Masjid, as a baying pack of men follow at the heels of the officers while mimicking the squealing sound of pigs.
Police say “a number of missiles were thrown at police vehicles during the disorder” and one police officer was hit on the head with a bottle. An official investigation has been launched into the appalling incident.
The management at Green Lane Masjid, in whose vicinity the nightly markets operate, issued a statement following the disturbing scenes, saying: “Over the past few weeks of Ramadan, there have been increasing concerns about nightly events and trading activities on Coventry Road near Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre.
“As a masjid, we have witnessed a range of antisocial behavior, including youth gang fights, littering, noise disturbance for residents, illegal trading, road blockages, unauthorised food outlets without hygiene certification, and young children walking the streets alone.
“Some young people have also been misleading their parents by claiming to go to the mosque while socializing at the markets instead. Additionally, gangs of youth have been intimidating others, including women.
“To address these community concerns raised by residents, local traders, imams, councillors, and others, West Midlands Police conducted a joint operation with Birmingham City Council last night.
“Unfortunately, the events that escalated were completely unacceptable and shameful.
“A large crowd gathered on Coventry Road in Small Heath around 1:30am, and the officers were sworn at, pushed, and jostled.
“One officer even suffered a minor injury when a bottle was thrown.
“Both West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council want people observing the holy month of Ramadan to enjoy the celebrations, but they also have a responsibility to ensure that everything is done safely and within the law.
“The police are now examining body-worn video and social media footage of last night’s events and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.”
Mohammed Saeed, Chair of Trustees at Green Lane Masjid, added: “I support the work of the West Midlands Police in tackling this behavior during one of the holiest months of the year.
“I appeal to the community to show good manners and etiquette during Ramadan and to consider the risks and consequences of their actions.
“The Green Lane Masjid team has been stewarding and addressing concerns, and announcements have been made from the imams at the mosque. However, many people attending these markets are not from our community and are causing these issues.”
Detective Chief Inspector David Sproson, said: “It’s completely unacceptable that officers who were there last night to make the community a safer and better place were met with such hostility. We were there at the request of the community to deal with concerns they had raised, and so what happened last night is intolerable.
“We’re now investigating a number of reports of criminal damage, as well as the assault on our officer, and those responsible are being sought and will face prosecution.
“I urge anyone with information about last night’s incidents to contact the police via live chat, quoting 3488 of 15 April.”
Imam Mustafa, one of the main imams from Green Lane Masjid, sent out a plea to the community and said: “The month of Ramadan should be dedicated to worship, charity, and righteous deeds, and not to causing harm and distress to others.
“Late-night socializing is not appropriate during this blessed month. Ramadan is a time for observing good behaviour and avoiding sin, which is worse during this time than any other.”
Imam Mustafa also quoted Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and said: “When anyone of you is observing fast, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice.”