Anti-fascists scored a huge victory last Saturday when more than 2,000 people protested against the British National Party (BNP) Red, White and Blue “festival” in the village of Codnor, Derbyshire.
Hundreds of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) activists defied police to blockade roads around the event, severely disrupting the Nazis’ plans for the day.
To a jubilant chorus of “You’re not getting to your fascist jamboree” – sung to the tune of “Yellow Submarine” – protesters forced many Nazis to turn back and left others stranded for hours in traffic jams.
The BNP had attempted to portray its event as a “family festival”.
But the reports from journalists inside the event and the behaviour of thugs giving Nazi salutes around its edges exposed it for what it was – a fascist rally.
By 9am anti-fascists had formed blockades at both ends of the road leading to the field in which the Red, White and Blue event was held.
This caused huge traffic tailbacks and forced many people to abandon their vehicles, adding to the disruption.
At the north end of the road, around 300 protesters – many from the local area and the north of England – linked arms and shut the road throughout the morning.
James Eaden, president of Chesterfield and North Derbyshire TUC, joined this blockade.
He told Socialist Worker, “There is a long tradition of trade unionists in the area opposing the fascists.
“We know the BNP don’t have any solutions to problems that people face – such as the 170 jobs that are about to go at a factory in Codnor.
“We need to build on the success of these protests to make sure that the BNP can’t come back here again.”
At the southern road entrance, anti-fascists from Birmingham and Coventry were the first to arrive and formed a line across the road. They cheered as protesters from Manchester jumped off coaches and joined them.
Protesters succeeded in shutting this road for some time until police smashed the blockade up at around 10am.
They penned demonstrators into the verges and temporarily opened up a section of the road.
Protesters from Wales joined this group and vied with police throughout the day for control of the road.
There were several arrests at this flashpoint, but threats of mass arrest failed to disperse the protests. All those on the blockade were proud of the stand they had taken.
Sophie, James and Phoebe, three students from Halesowen College in the West Midlands, joined this blockade.
Sophie said. “It’s really good to see the unity of people here. I think it’s important to take a stand – I want to be part of fighting for something that’s right.”
“The BNP is trying to legitimise itself,” added Phoebe. “But we all know it is racist and homophobic. We want equality for everyone – that’s why we are here.”
Police prevented coachloads of demonstrators arriving from London joining the southern blockade. But around 300 of these protesters managed to form a second picket further up the same road.
Martin, a PCS union member from Chelmsford, told Socialist Worker, “This is really good. It’s disrupting the BNP’s chance of looking respectable.
“I hate the fascists. If they got into power they’d start building concentration camps. I considered it mandatory to be here. Seeing them all trapped in their cars is great.”
Meanwhile some 1,500 protesters gathered for a TUC-backed rally in the centre of Codnor. This group then marched down towards the entrance to the Red, White and Blue event, joining forces with those at the northern blockade.
This march confronted police, including some with horses, who were protecting the “festival”.
The protesters pushed the police lines back to come within metres of the entrance to the event. Noisy chants ensured that the Nazis inside could hear the scale of the opposition to them.
The day concluded with all the protesters joining forces to march up the high street in a display of unity.
People carried a multitude of colourful banners and placards, and sang – to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” – “We’re black, white, Asian and we’re Jews – and we’re gay!”
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, summed up the protest as “a great day for anti-fascists”.
He said, “We brought more protesters to Codnor this year than the numbers the BNP managed to attract to its ‘festival’ of race hatred.
“They had fewer people attending this year because the protests drove away their softer supporters. We want to ensure the BNP carries on getting smaller.
“Protesters also managed to cause real disruption to the event by making it difficult, if not impossible, for the BNP’s supporters and guest speakers to get in.
“Today we saw what can happen when black and white, young and old, Muslim and Jew, gay and straight, come together in unity to fight the fascist BNP.
“We now need to build this anti-fascist movement in every locality where the Nazis are active – and drive the BNP out of town.”