ANTI-NAZIS scored a victory last weekend in the battle against the British National Party (BNP) and its Red, White and Blue 'festival' outside Burnley in Lancashire. The Nazis hoped the police's five-kilometre exclusion zone around the event would prevent them from facing any opposition. But anti-Nazis broke the police ban and gathered opposite the entrance to the Nazis' 'festival'.
The protesters shouted and jeered at each Nazi as they arrived in their cars. 'It's not fair,' one Nazi whinged to a policeman. This was just one more humiliation for the BNP. It could not muster more than 400 people on Saturday and Sunday, according to an eyewitness. This is despite the election of three BNP councillors in nearby Burnley.
The BNP had already been forced to scrabble around for a venue after people in the village of Diggle, near Oldham, had refused to let the Nazis meet there. They opted for a field on the edge of Sawley, some eight miles away from Burnley. Sawley is a tiny village made up of one pub and a scattering of stone cottages.
Here too the Nazis upset local residents. The BNP booked a field that meant a regular car boot sale couldn't go ahead and a vintage car rally had to be relocated. Many cars drove up to the entrance of the BNP event, only to turn round and speed off once they realised what it was.
The protest organised by the Anti Nazi League (ANL) challenged the BNP's lie that it was holding a 'family festival'. The event last year in Welshpool was exposed in secret footage shown on the BBC's Panorama.
Drunken BNP thugs were filmed doing Hitler salutes, singing Nazi marching songs and laughing at sick 'jokes' about the Holocaust. The BNP leader, Nick Griffin, made an openly racist speech at this year's event, attacking asylum seekers and saying, 'Who is this Stephen Lawrence, anyway?' The Red, White and Blue 'festival' is borrowed directly from Le Pen's National Front in France, even down to using the same name. It has been part of his strategy to attract soft supporters which the National Front then hopes to turn into hardcore members. The fact that the festival has been
allowed to go ahead has played a key role in Le Pen's attempt to present himself as a 'respectable' politician. The police's exclusion zone round last weekend's 'festival' to ban protesters was about treating the BNP as if it is 'respectable'. The ANL condemned this at a press conference last Friday, and confirmed that its supporters would still protest against the BNP.
'It is at the discretion of the police and the home secretary to ban this festival. Where there is a will, there is a way,' Shahid Malik, a member of New Labour's national executive committee, told the press. 'But there is no will. Instead it will cost half a million pounds to protect these Nazis.'
Paul Moore, a Labour councillor for Burnley's Queensgate ward, also spoke out at the press conference. 'This festival is another way of normalising the BNP and legitimising them. We should be trying to expose them,' he said.
'The ANL's 'Love Music-Hate Racism' festival has been banned from Burnley. It seems there is one set of rules for the Nazis and one for the ANL.'
Chris Gathercole, who has lived for 25 years in Whalley, a village near Sawley, explained how he had been spurred to join the anti-Nazi protest. 'I thought I've got to do something about this festival - I've got to stand up and be counted. So I looked at the Anti Nazi League's website and we got a petition together. We told people we're against the BNP and how they are associated with violence, and people were grabbing the pen and signing.'
Carnival set to be dynamite
A 17 YEAR old student, Jennifer Wilkinson, studying at Lancashire's Nelson and Colne College, explained why she supported last weekend's anti-Nazi protest:
'The BNP are racists and they should be stopped. Some in my extended family voted for the BNP, but I see myself as an anti-racist success story. I don't agree with their ideas, and we should go out and tell the truth about what they stand for.'
The Anti Nazi League's 'Love Music-Hate Racism' carnival on Sunday 1 September is a chance for thousands of young people like Jennifer to celebrate anti-racism. The headline acts at the free carnival include Ms Dynamite, Doves, The Shining, Heartless Crew and Billy Bragg. There are two stages, a dance marquee and stalls.
The event is going ahead in Manchester after Burnley council withdrew permission for it to be staged locally. There is just a week to go.
The Anti Nazi League is urging its supporters to get the word out about the carnival and build a major day of black and white unity. Buzz 88.1 FM, the biggest underground radio station in the north of England, is already publicising the carnival with interviews and adverts.
But there are young people across other parts of Britain who, if they saw a poster or leaflet, would love to come to the Anti Nazi League carnival.
Phone 020 7924 0333 for details of transport from across Britain.