Ronnie Peterson had been watching the England vs Japan friendly in May 2010 and was carrying his St George's cross flag. His trial for aggravated public order offences was heard in December but District Judge Andrew Vickers reserved judgment until 13th January 2011.
While passing the mosque, Peterson hung his flag on the railings and staged a one-man protest, chanting 'EDL' and 'England' a couple of times.
The recent history of mosque-building in Reading has been dogged by controversy. The one outside which Ronnie Peterson protested is in Oxford Road, and is not yet finished, being described as an eye-sore locally. It was supposed to be Reading's only mosque, and yet planning permission was given for yet another one a few miles away in Green Road. Both appear to be on land leased at a peppercorn rent from Reading Council, and gifts have been made by the Council to the Muslims, according to this blog.
Two Muslims in a cafe opposite said they thought a march was taking place. The Reading Post reports:
'Urfan Azad told the court he was in the Tea House, in Oxford Road, with friend Amar Nazir on the evening of Sunday, May 30, when they heard “EDL, EDL” being chanted. He said: “We thought it was a demonstration. We went around the corner and saw three guys raising their hands up and they had a St George’s flag on the fence around the mosque which is being built. I felt a bit scared and called the police.”'
Urfan Azad was once feared as a drugs gangster in Reading and has been on a weapons-training visit to a Madrassah in Pakistan. But he felt 'a bit scared' seeing the slightly-built Peterson with his flag. Just for good measure, he and his friend foud an alternative story, that fellow Muslims would feel outraged by Peterson's peaceful protest and set upon him (that's more like it):
'Mr Azad said prayers were due to take place in the existing mosque about 100 yards away in Valentia Road and he was afraid the situation might get out of control.
'Mr Nazir added: “Me and my friend discussed it and we thought it could turn into something ugly. Any other Muslim could drive past and do something stupid and start a fight so we decided to call the police.”'
When the police turned up they did not stand by Ronnie Peterson to protect him from the alleged stupid gangs of Muslims, nor did they give him advice about how to conduct his protest. Instead, without warning him to move on they arrested him. The arresting constable told the court he only arrested Peterson 'because my sergeant told me to.' According to the Reading Chronicle:
'Sgt Lee Barnham said he spoke to the witness, and added: “He was offended by the use of what he considered to be a religious cross against the site of worship.
'“It was clear he was upset and felt intimidated. I was satisfied an offence under the public order act had been committed.”'
When the police charged Peterson, they added that his offence had been 'racially or religiously aggravated' by the display of the national flag of England and its red cross. Muslims might well be offended and upset to be reminded that when Allah told Mohammed that Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross he was not telling the truth, and was trying to hide from them that Jesus died for their sins and that even today the Lord of Life commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, before He returns in judgment and in conquest.
But did our fathers and grandfathers die fighting Nazi Germany so that our national flags expressing our Christian heritage could be viewed as religiously aggravating? Did the Muslims coming here not realise that this is a constitutionally Christian country? Can a word of Muslim disquiet now terrify a policeman into arresting an innocent man displaying the Cross of St George, the English Patron Saint and Christian Martyr?
Actually, the cross should scare Muslims. They say Jesus is merely a prophet, but if so, when he said 'I have power to lay down my life and power to take it up again,' when He described Himself as Daniel's Son of Man to whom all authority is given, when He said 'I and my Father are one,' he told us He is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. The Cross, if the Church is forthright enough to proclaim it, should remind them that that he spurns their words of 'Peace be upon him', and that death could not hold the Redeemer of mankind.
Indeed, the Cross of Christ should remind us all that there is a holy God in heaven who commands us to turn from our sin and wickedness and all that offends His Majesty and to seek forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, who gave His life that all who believe in Him might be saved. We shall all stand before Christ the righteous judge one day and every knee will bow to Him them, just as every knee ought to bow right now.
PRAY: Clearly, District Judge Andrew Vickers has gone away to seek advice from his superiors. He needs to rule 'not guilty' and state clearly that the cross on our national flags is not an 'aggravating factor' but a declaration of a great salvation, celebrated in these islands for over 1500 years. Please pray for him. You can let him know you are praying for him by writing to him at Reading Magistrates Court, Castle Street READING, RG1 7RD Tel: 0118 9552600PRAY: For Ronnie Peterson. The scars he is bearing in the Reading Post story resulted from him being set upon by a Muslim gang near a friend's home days before the hearing. He needs the Lord's protection and guidance from on high. He expressed himself as 'not a religious' person in court. That says he did not realise the full significance of the cross he was holding up. But none of us needs 'religion' as much as we need the presence of Jesus Christ. May the Christ who died on the cross become a saving reality in Ronnie Peterson's life.
WITNESS: For Ronnie and for the right to display the cross on 13th January 2011 at Reading Magistrates Court. The case is scheduled for 10am but could be heard at any time during that day.