Nelsonians unite against intolerance at the Nelson Club on Friday evening. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Protesters unite over Nelson Club racism allegations

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Protesters advocating for tolerance took to the entrance of the Nelson Club on Friday evening in light of recent allegations of racism and homophobia at the exclusive establishment.

About 50 locals rallied outside the club with scores more driving past and tooting their support.

Two weeks ago, the club met to decide the fate of the member who is alleged to have made anti-Muslim and homophobic comments at an event late last year. The incident led to the resignation of the then club chairperson, when the committee refused to censure the member in question.

Protest organiser Debs Martin said the club needed to step into the 21st century.

“If this is meant to be a respectable place for people to come and meet then it has to respect people of all genders, races and religions.”

Debs says the club needs to be less secretive.

“They should be transparent, open and supportive of the community, they need to censure this type of behaviour.

She says the number of protesters and support shown speaks volumes of how the Nelson community views this sort of rhetoric.

Sarah Sharp, who attended the protest, says comments such as the alleged remarks made by a club member impact on our tamariki.

“We need to remember to be kind to each other, we are all human.”

Meanwhile, Nelson MP Nick Smith says the Nelson Club needs to put the “ugly exchange of words” behind it.

Nick, who is an associate member of the club, has organised an information function at the establishment with the Nelson Islamic Society, as a way to improve local cultural understanding.

“Racism and Islamophobia has no place in Nelson. I do not think the offensive comments made by one member to another at a Christmas function last year are representative at all of the club, but given the horrific events in Christchurch in March, we need to find a way to improve cross-cultural understanding.”

The club will host a luncheon in September with Dr Moayid Sherif, the Imam of Nelson Mosque and President of the Nelson Islamic Society, as guest speaker. Dr Sherif will speak on Islam, the Quran and the New Zealand Muslim community.

“The goal of the function is for the club to engage with our local Muslim community, better understand Islam and to recognise that all people regardless of race or religious beliefs share the same basic human values.”

Nick says he “commends” the club for taking up his suggestion and Dr Sherif for accepting the invitation.

“The club needs to put the ugly exchange of words last year behind it. This is a good positive way to move forward.”

At the last club meeting, the member in question stepped down from the club’s committee but was permitted to keep his membership while the club voted to make an amendment that would make it forbidden to speak publicly about club business.