OLDHAM COUNCIL, led by the Liberals, has given racists a boost by withdrawing permission for the anti-racist Respect Festival, which was planned for the town this Saturday. It had been organised by a broad coalition, including Oldham United Against Racism, North West Region TUC and the Anti Nazi League. The festival was expected to bring together 10,000 black and white people, most of them young.
A host of well known club DJs were due to perform at the event and there was huge local interest in the event. Entire youth clubs and community groups working with young people were coming. There has been a trend recently for the authorities to treat the Nazis and anti-Nazis as equally bad and disruptive.
The Anti Nazi League carnival in Burnley planned for September was banned by the council and home secretary David Blunkett. But it is not anti-Nazis who spread race hate or carry out racial attacks. It is the BNP which is responsible for whipping up violence and division. Disgracefully, in a meeting to consider the festival, the local police demanded to know from the organisers how many of the DJs performing were Pakistani! The Nazis are making a big push for next May's local council elections in the north west of England.
The BNP grabbed an alarming 16 percent of the vote in Oldham in the general election in June. Every major party claims to be strongly against the Nazis and against racism. But by banning anti-racist and anti-Nazi activities they are playing into the BNP's hands.
Getting thousands of young white people to the Respect Festival would have been the beginning of winning away potential recruits from the BNP. There was a spate of vicious racist attacks in Oldham in the spring and summer. Asian residents, including the town's mayor, had their homes firebombed. But Oldham council has undertaken absolutely no anti-racist initiative or campaign.
In addition, the propaganda in support of the war in Afghanistan has encouraged racists and led to attacks on some mosques in the north west of England. The ANL will be in Oldham on Saturday leafleting and petitioning against the Nazis.
A campaign to challenge the council's decision over the festival will be launched at 11am in Werneth Park with comedian Mark Thomas and ANL treasurer Glyn Ford MEP.