Socialist Worker

Racist thugs ignited riot

Issue No. 1755

Asian youths fight back in Burnley

Racist thugs ignited riot

"THE government's reaction to what happened in Oldham had a big impact. When they said that the money would go from Asian areas to white areas then there were people saying that perhaps the BNP had a case. In the post we're a mixed workforce. We'd all like something better for our children, but there's a feeling there's not much of a future round here. It only takes a few racist idiots to stir things up, but there's no doubt they are touching something real- people are fed up and some get led off by racist lies."

  • Postal worker, Burnley

"I HATE to say we told you so. This is what happens when 4,000 people vote for Nazis. The British National Party go on the offensive." That was the comment from Helen, who lives near Burnley, after the riots in the town last weekend. The press and police have been keen to present last weekend's riot in Burnley as fights between rival gangs of Asian and white youths.

But this lets the racist minority in the area off the hook. A number of racist incidents sparked the riot in Burnley. On Friday of last week a white family having a party reacted angrily to being asked at 5am to turn the music down.

One of the partygoers went outside to racially abuse the Asian neighbours, shouting, "I am going to sort you out." After this around five or six white people turned up in cars armed with hammers and pieces of wood, and then attacked an Asian taxi driver. He is in hospital recovering from a damaged skull and broken cheekbone. Many people are furious that the police did not answer the emergency call for half an hour.

On Saturday two hire vans were seen in the local area. Residents say they recognised the vans as the ones the BNP used during the election campaign to put up placards. Two more Asian taxi drivers were attacked on Saturday and Sunday night. Also on Sunday night a group of four Asian youths were attacked by a gang of about 50 white men.

An off licence run by an Asian family in a predominantly white area was set on fire, leaving the family to escape from the flat above.

Most people in the racially mixed town have been shocked at the racist violence. Shaz, who lives locally said, "This is absolutely crazy. Everyone gets on really well around here. We play cricket together in mixed teams and everyone plays down the snooker centre together."

And Helen spoke about the warm reception they have had to an anti-racist forum due to take place on Thursday. "Anti-Nazi supporters were out last weekend to build for our public forum against racism, and there has been a brilliant response. Out of this terrible racist attack some good has come. Loads of people are rallying round, and want to come together and talk about black and white unity."


Taxi drivers unite

TAXI DRIVERS across Burnley took strike action on Monday in response to the racist attacks and police failures over the weekend. The strike is a brilliant example of black and white unity bringing together the Asian taxi drivers with white workers in the hire companies and the black cabs.


Successes in the past

THE NAZI BNP tried to build a base in Burnley during the 1992 council elections. Some 200 white and Asian people protested against them. The local Nazi candidate gave up and announced he was leaving the party.


'Police hit me again'

POLICE ATTACKED and then arrested Shahid Malik on Monday night. He is a member of the Labour Party's national executive and son of Burnley's deputy mayor. He was a Northern Ireland equality commissioner and a member of the Commission for Racial Equality.

To the police he was just another Asian, to be battered, abused and intimidated. Shahid needed hospital treatment, including five stitches below his left eye. He told television reporters that police had attacked him as he appealed for calm. He said, "I was face to face with one of the officers and said, 'It's OK. There are no problems here'. Then he lifted his riot shield with the edge up and smashed it straight into my face. I said, 'What are you doing? I'm not trying to cause trouble. I'm trying to stop it.' He repeatedly hit me again. I was unconscious for a few seconds then came to. They were saying, 'Get up, stop acting, there's nothing wrong with you.' I could see the blood coming down the left hand side of my face and thought, 'What are you talking about?' "

Shahid's father, Rafique Malik, told the BBC that he had witnessed the attack, and that "three or four officers had pounced on him, pinned him down, and started beating and kicking him".


Low pay to stay

BURNLEY IS one of the most deprived areas of the country. It is a former mill town. But the mills have closed, along with many of the engineering workplaces that used to provide jobs. Both white and Asian areas are scarred by poverty, unemployment and the appallingly low wages that exist if you do have work. The Asian population of Burnley is 6 percent. The BNP peddles the lie that "Asian areas get more money".

But the Daneshouse ward in Burnley, the ward with the highest concentration of people from an Asian background, is one of the most deprived wards in England, according to official statistics. Daneshouse is the sixth worst ward in England for child poverty, and the eighth worst in terms of income deprivation.

Unemployment in Daneshouse is officially 5.4 percent. Unemployment across Burnley as a whole is 3.3 percent. As elsewhere in Britain, the real figure is likely to be around twice this figure, as economic pundit Samuel Brittan pointed out in the Financial Times last week.

Poverty in many of the predominantly white areas of Burnley is nearly as bad. The Barclay ward is one of the poorest wards in England. The largely white Stoops estate, where BNP members have been out spreading their poison, is part of that ward.


Poverty grips area

THE GOVERNMENT has thrown out a recommendation that 21 year olds should be paid the full rate for the minimum wage. Instead they will continue to get a much lower rate which guarantees poverty pay. A 21 year old will be entitled to just �140 a week before tax for a full time job.

The minimum wage for 18 to 21 year olds will go up from �3.20 an hour to �3.50 an hour in October. The rate for workers from 22 years old rises to �4.10 an hour-itself a very low figure.


BNP Nazis tried to stir up locals

LANCASHIRE'S CHIEF of police John Knowles claimed in the Guardian newspaper "there was no evidence of BNP involvement" in the Burnley riots.

Yet for a number of years the BNP has targeted the area. In the recent general election the BNP seized a shocking 11.2 percent with 4,000 votes. A local resident told Socialist Worker, "There are a small group of very dedicated BNP members who have been working to divide people and turn their anger about their lives onto Asian people. They have put in a series of leaflets. They are not just racist propaganda. They will leaflet about how the Labour government has let working class people down-which fits with how people feel. They say the problem is that the Asians get all the money. Of course it's rubbish. The regeneration money does not go to Asian areas rather than white ones, and there's precious little money for anyone. You have really poor Asian estates and really poor white estates, and the two are being set against each other rather than working together over the real problems."

Local people also tackled the council about a Nazi BNP banner reading "Save Our Country" that hung from a highly visible industrial chimney throughout the election campaign.


CLOSE DOWN Harmondsworth refugee detention centre This Saturday, 30 June Car cavalcade-assemble 10.30am, Heston services M4 westbound Buses run from Heathrow (U3 service) or the 81 bus opposite Hounslow West tube


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Sat 30 Jun 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1755
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