Alex Constantine - March 17, 2009
Anti-Nazi activists are stepping up their campaign against the fascist British National Party (BNP) in the run‑up to the European elections on Thursday, June 4th. The BNP hopes to capitalise on anger at the recession and the climate of racism whipped up by the right to grab its first seats in the European parliament.
But supporters of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are determined to stop them. UAF has been organising leafleting campaigns, hosting rallies and calling protests against the Nazis wherever they go.
The most recent anti-BNP protest took place on Friday evening last week in Leigh, a town near Wigan in the North West England constituency that Nick Griffin hopes to take.
UAF supporters heard about the event and mobilised against the fascists at less than 24 hours notice.
Lobbying the venue successfully got the event pulled, but anti-Nazi campaigners turned up to hold a demonstration anyway. Around 50 people joined the anti-BNP protest, including members of the PCS and Unison unions as well as students and local people.
Earlier, a group of BNP thugs had turned up and attacked the anti-fascist protesters. The protesters held their ground and the Nazis were chased around the corner once more protesters arrived.
Later more local people arrived and went to confront the Nazis. A BNP propaganda trailer was smashed up during the altercation.
Some mainstream newspapers regurgitated BNP claims that fascist thug Tony Ward had been “badly injured” with a hammer during the fight. In fact Ward had started the violence by attacking anti-fascist protesters. Even the police contradicted the BNP claims, saying that Ward had not been seriously hurt.
The Leigh incident shows that the BNP are still more than willing to resort to violence. But it also shows the strength of feeling that can be mobilised against the fascists – even at short notice.
Last weekend also saw a variety of other activities against the Nazis up and down the country. A regional UAF conference in Yorkshire & Humberside attracted around 70 people to hear speakers from the local trade union movement and Labour Party. UAF supporters in Yorkshire & Humberside spoke about their work on the ground against the BNP, including leafleting sessions, voter registration drives, Love Music Hate Racism gigs and press campaigns exposing the BNP as Nazis.
Activists have been distributing “action packs” to local people containing 100 leaflets for them to put around in their community.
They are also planning to join mass days of action against the Nazis to be held on selected weekends in April and May. In Cambridge some 60 people came to a UAF public meeting called to coordinate anti-BNP action in the East of England constituency. In Manchester UAF campaigners leafleted the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade at the weekend.