Community organisations have come out in opposition to a BNP rally.
Last week local BNP leaders told The Sentinel that next Saturday’s event in Stoke-on-Trent could be the biggest the party has held. That has drawn a strong response from regional and national groups, who have urged authorities to outlaw the gathering. But Staffordshire Police say the democratically-elected party is acting within the law.
North Staffordshire Pensioners’ Convention said it believed the BNP’s intention was to divide the community in the wake of the recent Habib Khan manslaughter verdict. Khan, of Normacot, was jailed for eight years last month for killing his neighbour, BNP activist Keith Brown.
Chairman Philip Snow, speaking for the executive committee, said: “We call upon the relevant authorities to refuse any licence which would permit such an event.”
Mr Snow said that the equal opportunities convention supports and actively works towards integration and harmony.
National BNP leader Nick Griffin will be one of the speakers on September 20 when the rally arrives at a ‘central location’ after hundreds of activists have spent the morning distributing up to 50,000 leaflets. Other speakers will include Stoke-on-Trent city councillors Alby Walker, who leads the party’s council group, and Michael Coleman.
Mr Walker denied that the BNP was looking to stir up trouble and said that the rally, expected to draw up to 400 activists from across the UK, had been organised in close co-operation with the authorities.
Mr Walker said: “It is not our intention to stir up tensions. It is a perfectly legal protest which is a fundamental right. It really is not aimed against any community and has been mainly organised to point out the discrepancy in different sections of the community by the courts and the failings of the judicial system.”
But national pressure group Love Music Hate Racism has issued a statement condemning the rally. Chairman Weyman Bennett said: “We want peace and harmony in Stoke-on-Trent. We are horrified that an organisation such as the BNP is targeting the city and planning a national rally which the party leader Nick Griffin will attend.”
Mr Bennett said that if the rally goes ahead, his organisation was planning its own demonstration.
Staffordshire Police Superintendent Bernie O’Reilly said: “We have met with members of the BNP on three occasions to discuss their plans.”