A Liberal Democrat peer described a protester as “a Nazi” during a council meeting, leading demonstrators angry over a local mosque to disrupt the session.
Pendle Borough Council in Lancashire had been due to discuss among other matters renovations to a building, which may be used as a mosque in the future, during a planning committee meeting on 8 August.
The local mosque already owns the building and has applied to renovate and extend it.
Muslim community leaders hope to move the mosque into the building once it is renovated.
“During the meeting a group of [objectors] stood closely behind some of us in a frankly intimidating position, one of them filming proceedings,” Lord Tony Greaves, a Liberal Democrat peer, told The Independent.
“A colleague sitting next to me was talking about how she was friends with her neighbours who are both Asian Muslim families and said how she felt intimidated by the men immediately behind her and asked them to stop.”
In a video of the protest, obtained by The Independent, a councillor can be heard asking the men to “please stop filming”.
“Why not? I’m allowed to,” the unnamed protester behind the camera says.
“He’s a Nazi,” Lord Greaves said, looking at him. Angry shouts can be heard following the peer’s remark.
“There was no trouble until the Nazi insult,” Craig McBeth, a Ukip member who spoke at the meeting, told The Independent.
“Everyone was respectful until Tony Greaves called a member of the public who was filming a Nazi – without provocation – then it all kicked off.”
The man holding the camera was wearing a Tommy Robinson t-shirt.
Anti-Islam activist Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is currently in prison for committing contempt of court.
“Let’s discuss this, why is he a Nazi? Let’s get this on film,” one protester can be heard shouting in the video.
“Who’s the outsiders here? Let’s get this to the bottom of this,” he says.
“What does a Tommy Robinson t-shirt have to do with the extermination of Jews?”
The video shows the meeting becoming increasingly disruptive as people shout and use anti-Muslim language.
“Shame on f******* you,” one protester shouts.
“Why are Muslims segregated into a separate area? Why is it that? Why is that David Cameron said that multiculturalism has failed?”
“Who’s the outsiders out of this town? Who’s the outsiders?
“He said Nazi! I call him a balding p***k!”
Multiple remarks were also made about “Muslim rape gangs”, a reference to grooming gang cases which Robinson has repeatedly used in his speeches.
Two Lancashire Police officers had been waiting in the town hall in case of disruption.
They removed six protesters from the meeting, the force said.
Graham Waugh, the committee chair, can be seen in the video telling the officers that the group was disruptive.
“I looked round and saw that the man with the camera was wearing a “FreeTommy Robinson” t-shirt,” Lord Greaves said.
“I said “Oh, you are a Nazi”. Not aggressively, just in surprise really, an observation.
“I do not apologise for doing that. I consider that [Stephen] Yaxley-Lennon...is a neo-Nazi street thug and racist bigot.
“I consider that anyone supporting him is arguably a neo-Nazi and such people should be called out.
“The small group of objecting men then erupted, started shouting and ranting at the councillors present.”
Mr McBeth told The Independent that he opposed the planning application to extend the building.
“Admittedly some comments that followed are probably best not advised... but the point is this wouldn’t have kicked off without Lord Greaves’ insult on someone who had done nothing wrong up to that point,” he sad.
Mr McBeth added that he believed Lord Greaves’ remark was not “behaviour expected of a lord.”
The Liberal Democrat peer is councillor for Waterside Ward, which includes the building at the centre of the planning dispute.
Around 200 Muslim residents live in the town of Colne, where Lord Greaves’ ward is located.