TRADE UNIONISTS and campaigners were set to march through central Manchester on Saturday in a united protest against racism. The demonstration and rally was called by the TUC and the Unison union, and backed by the Anti Nazi League. It is a recognition of the danger posed by the British National Party (BNP), which has been targeting the north west of England.
The BNP has desperately been trying to appear 'respectable' to con voters. It has five councillors in the area, and is standing its highest ever number of candidates in the 1 May election. The BNP is still the same Nazi organisation that inspires hatred and attacks on black and Asian people.
The Manchester demonstration comes in the same week as the tenth anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He was killed in south east London near to where the BNP had their headquarters. Saturday's march is part of the campaign to expose the Nazis' true face. TUC president Brendan Barber and Unison general secretary Dave Prentis were due to speak at the rally, alongside TGWU leader Bill Morris.
Bill Morris has been an outspoken critic of New Labour's savage policies against refugees. Trade unions have an important role to play in beating back the Nazis and challenging racism.
This was shown last week in Liverpool when protesters successfully stopped the BNP holding a meeting in a school on Wednesday of last week. Delegations of trade unionists came to the 150-strong protest from the postal workers' CWU union, teachers from the NUT, Unison members from Sefton and Liverpool, lecturers in the AUT, rail workers in the RMT and Aslef, and the Merseyside TUC.
There were six union banners at the protest, which was organised at short notice. BNP leader Nick Griffin had been due to attend the meeting at Anfield Comprehensive School. He wanted it to be a high profile election launch for the BNP's candidate in the area, Joe Owens. But the protest forced the meeting to be cancelled.
'The response from the city was fantastic,' reports Daniel Swain. 'As the news filtered round the crowd that the meeting had been cancelled, the decision was made to hold a short rally, and then distribute anti-fascist materials throughout the area. The speeches were of victory, and the general mood was one of determination to smash the Nazis wherever they organise.'
Many people were angry that the Liberal Democrats running Liverpool council had originally ruled that the BNP meeting should go ahead, claiming 'councils have to treat all candidates equally'.
But local campaigners understood the threat posed by the Nazis meeting. Brian Campbell from the Anfield Parents Action Group said, 'It is an absolute disgrace. Parents are not happy that the BNP is allowed to meet in a school.' The BNP was also defeated in its attempt to hold a meeting in the Bishop Reindorp School in Guildford on Wednesday of last week.
Members of the Anti Nazi League quickly called a protest. The school authorities took a stand and refused to let the BNP's candidate for Stoke ward, Frank McAllister, hold a meeting there.
Such protests give confidence to local people to carry on opposing the Nazis. In the remaining days before the election anti-Nazi campaigners in the north west and across Britain will be out leafleting people's houses against the BNP. They will also be protesting against any attempt by the Nazis to mobilise.
THE COMMITTEE to Defend Asylum Seekers are collecting more signatures and raising money on Saturday's march for their statement in defence of refugees, due to be published in the Mirror on Tuesday of next week. For more details go to www.defend-asylum.org
Thugs after votes
WHO ARE the BNP candidates who want your vote?
Nick Griffin, standing in Oldham. He got a two-year suspended sentence for distributing material likely to incite racial hatred.
- Mick Treacy, standing in Oldham. He has five convictions for violence, theft and handling stolen goods.
- Joseph Owens, standing in Liverpool. He served eight months for sending razor blades in the post to Jewish people in Liverpool in 1982. He was jailed in 1984 for carrying CS gas and knuckledusters.
- Steven E Belshaw, standing in Mansfield. He is a former member of the violent Nazi group Combat 18. He was convicted in 1993 for assaulting a lawyer.
- Kevin Scott, standing in Gateshead. He was convicted in 1987 for assault. He was convicted again in 1994 for threatening words and behaviour to a group of Asians.
- Mark Collett, standing in Leeds. He was exposed on BBC and Channel 4 programmes praising Hitler and using vile language against Jews.
UNITE AGAINST RACISM
MARCH IN MANCHESTER THIS SATURDAY,
26 APRIL Assemble 10.30am at Castlefield Basin, Liverpool Road, rally at 12 noon in Albert Square
Concert from 7pm, The Apollo. Bands include RDB, Chumbawamba, Un-Cut, Alabama 3 Called by Unison and the TUC