June 21, 2009
Posted by Antifascist
Just over 100 people from around the region took part in the protest; which was great, given that there were only a few days in which to organise and publicise it. Banners included those from Blackpool Trades Council; Blackpool and Fylde College UCU; Greater Manchester UAF and the local PCS.
Several speakers addressed the crowd and onlookers on the promenade. Points made included: why we say 'no platform for Nazis'; the fact that they are virulently homophobic as well as racist; the level of misogyny within the party and ended with a promise to Griffin that wherever he tries to appear publicly in the North West, we will be there too. Speakers talked about the fact that anti-fascists represent the majority and that UAF will organise protests to outnumber and oppose the Nazi BNP wherever they try to organise.
Andrew Wheatley, from Blackpool Trades Council, emphasised that, despite Griffin winning the North West seat, the BNP do not represent the majority of people in the area. Pete Marsden, of Blackpool UNISON, speaking in a personal capacity, criticised the “British Jobs for British Workers” slogan which had benefited the BNP.
Jain Gawn, of Blackpool and Fleetwood Unite Against Fascism, talked of the legacy of fighting Fascism in Britain, including the Battle of Cable Street and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Jain also cited the recent attacks in Belfast as an example of where racism leads. Other speakers included Dione Bough of UNISON, Independent Socialist Councillor Michael Lavalette, and others.
Weyman Bennett, joint-national secretary of UAF, called for people to attend the demonstration against the Nazis’ “Red, White and Blue” event in August, while Dave Sewell of Manchester University Students Union spoke about the need to continue a No Platform position against the BNP.
A letter was read out from the two Blackpool MP’s, Joan Humble and Gordon Marsden, which had been sent to the New Kimberley Hotel, opposing the Hotel’s hosting of BNP events, stating “The Nazis too deceived, frightened and scapegoated people – just the same as the BNP try to do. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that many BNP activists try to deny the Holocaust.”
Unfortunately, the rally was not entirely free from Nazis. Several of them came out of the hotel to harass people. This is a new development for BNP gatherings in Blackpool and was obviously born out of a new confidence they've gained since the elections. We will have to make sure that that confidence is short lived. While many of their thugs lolling around in gangs were dressed in suits, a small group of skins sauntered over in ‘nationalist’ t-shirts and started sieg-heiling at the crowd (with a wall and cops in between, to protect themselves, obviously). Whilst this was met with fury and much shouting, no on attempted to physically attack them. Instead we slowly moved them on along the prom.
It was quite obvious that the episode was orchestrated purely to provoke us into a violent response. When the old Nazi salute didn't cause anyone to loose control and attack them, they started chanting the names of concentration camps, as a taunt. As they descended into a tirade of racial abuse the police intervened and four of them were arrested. It would be hard to find a clearer example of the fact that the BNP is a haven for hardcore, unreconstructed, Nazis.
While it was depressing to see them so confident and closer to our demo than in other years it is important to bear the following in mind: anti-fascists are by far the majority; it looks like we had far more people outside that hotel than they had inside it and while we can march through the streets, they can't. It is going to be a long, hard summer making sure that this remains the case. They've got their seats in Europe, but that does not mean we have to allow them the chance to take over our public places. As their 'Victory Rally' was such a flop, they’re likely to try again at the Red, White and Blue gathering. We need to make sure they have nothing to celebrate when they get there!