Plea for unity as West Norfolk remembers the Somme

At The Tower Gardens King's Lynn. Father Adrian Ling Prepares Where Light Will Shine to mark the Battle of the Sopmme. ANL-160630-113644009

At The Tower Gardens King's Lynn. Father Adrian Ling Prepares Where Light Will Shine to mark the Battle of the Sopmme. ANL-160630-113644009

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The communities of West Norfolk are being urged to stand together today, amid fears of a surge in racist and xenophobic incidents following the EU referendum.

Police say they have not see an increase in cases in Norfolk, despite reports of a 57 per cent rise in cases nationally since last Thursday’s poll.

But a vigil will take place in Lynn this evening, following a service marking the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

And Father Adrian Ling, rector of All Saints’ Church in Hillington Square, where the service will take place, hopes remembering the events of 100 years ago will place current events in perspective.

He said yesterday: “In recent weeks there has been much noise, much shouting and little listening.

“The centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme calls for silence, a time to reflect on the depths that mankind can reach. May the remembrance of the Somme put our current problems into perspective, make us cherish the peace we enjoy, and uphold the values our country holds most dear.”

Tonight’s vigil, which will take place in Saturday Market Place shortly after 7.30pm, has been organised by Labour party activists, though they are keen to stress it is intended to be a cross-party, cross-community event.

Although Norfolk Police says it has not seen an increase in hate crimes since Britain voted to leave, local Labour secretary Jo Rust said she had been made aware of one incident in which a group of Eastern European people had been verbally abused in a supermarket.

She said: “At a time when the country is in turmoil and a vote to leave the European Union appears to have been the cause of increases in acts of racism, we all need to shine a light against division and violence and stand together to promote peace and harmony.

“The futility of war must not be forgotten and the futility of hate must not be allowed to foster and grow in our community and country.

“This impacts on everyone and everyone is invited and welcome. Bring placards proclaiming your support and peaceful intentions and candles to shine a light on humanity.”

The service, which will take place at All Saints’ Church, Hillington Square, starts at 6.30pm and will be followed by an act of remembrance at 7.30pm in Tower Gardens, where a light will be placed in Greyfriars Tower. It will then shine until November, marking the 141 days of the battle.

Initial figures earlier this week suggested there had been a 57 per cent rise in reported cases of hate crime since the referendum.

But Norfolk Police says it has not seen a rise in the level of incidents in the county.

A force spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with local communities to maintain unity and tolerance and prevent any hate crime or abuse.

“All forms of hate crime are unacceptable in any circumstances and we will respond robustly to any such incidents.

“We strongly encourage anyone who thinks they may have experienced or witnessed hate crime to report it by calling us on 101, contacting Crimestoppers or using our True Vision website (www.report-it.org.uk), where you can also find advice about staying safe. In an emergency, always dial 999.”