Protesters interrupted a council meeting this afternoon with chants against the far-right British National Party.
Stunned Lancashire County Councillors looked on as the group, who were sitting in the public gallery, shouted “BNP out! Fascists out!” before being ushered out of the chamber. Earlier, police had been on duty as about 60 protestors demonstrated ahead of the full council meeting.
It was the first since the June 4 election, which saw the BNP’s Sharon Wilkinson become the first county councillor in the party’s history. Coun Wilkinson told the Lancashire Telegraph she had brought her own “security” and was not worried about the protests, organised by Unite Against Fascism.
A handful of BNP supporters sat alongside the demonstrators in the upstairs gallery.
It was expected to be a routine meeting, the first under the new Tory administration, with councillors appointed to the key positions on the council. The chants began as members of Lancashire Police Authority were being appointed. The council’s new deputy chairman, Ribble Valley’s Chris Holtom, struggled to make himself heard above the din. Coun Wilkinson, who sat two rows back from the other members, sat motionless as the protestors were evicted.
New Tory council leader Geoff Driver vowed she would not be put forward to serve on any committees, and added: “Protests like that can only help the BNP because people sympathise with them.”
In the rest of the meeting the parties clashed over plans to reform councillors are paid, with Coun Driver accused by Labour and the Lib Dems of “running a coach and horses” through the recommendations of an independent remuneration panel on members’ allowances.
He said: “They are an independent body, but they got their maths wrong.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: "Around 60 protesters have taken part in a demonstration outside County Hall in Preston ahead of Lancashire County Council’s first full meeting of the new cabinet. A relatively small policing operation was carried out, which was pre-planned in conjunction with the Council and the demonstrators themselves, Unite Against Fascism.
"The demonstration passed off peacefully without incident."