Over 500 anti-fascist activists and trade unionists marched in Codnor, Derbyshire, last Saturday in opposition to the British National Party (BNP) and its “Red, White and Blue” Nazi hate-fest that took place in the area.
The protest march set off shortly after 11am from Codnor market place. The mood was one of determination to oppose the fascists – but also of anger at repeated attempts by the police to block protesters.
The police used the Public Order Act to impose restrictions on the protests. There were scuffles and clashes as the police blocked the road leading up to the BNP site.
Demonstrators tried to break through the police lines, but were eventually held back some distance from the BNP event.
Nevertheless the broad nature of the protest – attracting young people, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and locals opposed to the BNP presence in the area – ensured that the police could not prevent the march and rally from taking place.
A symbolic delegation of 30 protesters was allowed near the site.
Socialist Worker joined the delegation, which was led by supporters of Derby Race Equality Council and local members of the Indian Workers Association.
One woman walked up to the delegation and called out, “Thank you! I’m a local resident and I support what you’re doing today.”
She spoke to Socialist Worker about the effect of the BNP on the local community.
“I don’t think the BNP should be allowed to exist, never mind hold an event here,” she said. “But I’d say feelings here are mixed. Many people are opposed to them, but a number are pro-BNP.”
Another local resident who joined the delegation of protesters spoke of how many residents opposed the BNP but felt isolated and worried about speaking out.
“People can be a little bit afraid about taking part in protests against the BNP,” she told Socialist Worker.
“They’re very active in the local area. Up the road has always been a hotbed of BNP activity – now they’ve got a foothold here, and I don’t like it.
“They are very intimidating. They call their event a ‘festival’, but they’re just fascists – a Klan with a capital K. We shouldn’t be permitting them to gather here.”
Once we reached the BNP site we filed past a phalanx of Nazi security thugs in bomber jackets.
After a short protest the delegation rejoined the bulk of the protest to applause and cheers from demonstrators.
The protest against the “Red, White and Blue” was organised by a variety of organisations, including Unite Against Fascism (UAF), Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), East Midlands UAF and trades councils from Derby and Mansfield & Nottingham.
The strong support from local trade unions was reflected in the number of union banners on the march. These included CWU Northampton branch, NUT City of Derby, PCS Leicester revenue, UCU East Midlands, Unison Leicester City branch and Unite Derby branch.
Trade union leaders on the march included Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, Jerry Bartlett, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT, and Lee Barron, the CWU’s Midlands regional secretary. Local Labour MP Judy Mallaber also turned up to give her support.
After the delegation had rejoined the main demonstration, protesters marched back to Codnor market square to hold a short rally addressed by trade unionists, local anti-racist activists and other campaigners.
“The BNP is trying to hold a festival of hate,” said Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF. “We must expose them for what they are – Nazis who want to repeat the Holocaust.”
Many speakers stressed the need for unity against the BNP. “I’m proud to be marching today against the Nazi BNP,” said Jerry Bartlett. “So long as we stand together, we are invincible.”
The day ended with music organised by Baby J, a local music promoter and LMHR supporter whose planned anti-fascist gig had been cancelled after an intervention from the local police.
Protesters vowed to be back next year if the “Red, White and Blue” goes ahead again – with even more support from the labour movement both locally and nationally.