The BNP meeting held at the Frank Townend Community Centre at Cleveleys last night has all the hallmarks of legend. Not because it was well-attended because it wasn't - only thirty to thirty-five turned up at most. In fact, all we anti-fascist protestors saw from our clear view of the door was the usual old guard of the local BNP - local being all the members the local groups could muster up from as far afield as Carlisle and Penrith.
The only potential new member we spotted was a boy of about seven who was being dragged along by someone we can only hope was his father. This poor little sod was hauled past us twice, presumably in the hope that someone on our side would go insane and hit him with a brick but despite the obvious provocation Dad was disappointed and eventually scowled his way back into the Community Centre. Junior's probably the BNP's newest recruit now.
Despite the short notice around sixty anti-fascists turned out to protest against the BNP being allowed to use the Centre to spread their fascist views around. Many of you will know that we attempted to have the meeting cancelled on the grounds that the BNP is racist and divisive, but we were hindered by the actions of the Chief Executive of Wyre Borough Council Jim Corry, who ignored any complaints, stating that the BNP is a registered political party and must therefore have access to all the facilities that are provided to the other parties. Mr Corry might care to check out the regulations regarding the hire of public facilities to political parties because one of the rules is that;
'the meeting must be open to all members of the public, and not restricted to ticket holders or members only'This rule is pretty easy to understand - even for the BNP - so it came as something of a shock to a small group of people when they were refused admittance on the grounds that they were not members of the party. When they very politely offered to join the BNP on the spot, they were informed that there were no membership forms on the premises and turned away. Strangely, they were not asked for their names or contact numbers. But then, they were Asian.
Similarly, a young man who came over for a chat with us, also attempted to attend the meeting but was stopped at the door. There was no messing about asking for membership forms in his case - he was just told repeatedly that he couldn't go in until he gave up and left. Oh yes, he was black.
There was even worse in store for the BNP. Not only did Nick Griffin (and apparently another speaker) cancel on them, delaying the beginning of the meeting (due to start at 7pm) until around 7.45pm, but the only would-be attendee we spoke with was a man who came for a chat with us before heading inside. He had obviously given the BNP some thought and was intending to go to the meeting just to hear what was said. On his way in, he was stuck behind the black guy who was bluntly refused entry. He stopped for a chat with him, both of them then watching the fiasco with the three Asian people who wanted to attend. Disgusted at the clear racism that he had witnessed for himself, he came over to us, explained why he was going and left, getting a round of applause from us for being a man with principles.
Annoyed at all this, Clive Jefferson, the BNP's North West Regional Organiser (the one with the dodgy number-plates on his car), took loads of photographs of us then complained to the police that we were taking photographs of him, before stomping back into the Centre in a huff, barging through Blackpool's idiot-in-chief Roy Goodwin en route.
All in all a productive and interesting demo, with people attending from Lancaster, Barrow and Blackpool, as well as loads of Cleveleys' folk and a lot of youngsters who eventually joined in (and told us where the nearest decent pub was, tut-tut).
We'll leave the last word to Clive Grunshaw, the Labour group leader on Wyre Borough Council and Labour's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood.
'It is extremely disappointing that Wyre Council sanctioned a political rally by the BNP at a community centre that will be used as the main polling station in a Council by-election to be held on 22nd October. The excuse that the BNP is a legitimate political party and should be treated the same as any other political party is, at best, dubious.Thank you, Clive, and bravo to all who were able to turn out at hardly any notice. :-)
Wyre Council was under no obligation to permit the rally to take place and indeed had they consulted their own policies on equality and diversity it would be hard to see how they square with a political party that espouses racist and homophobic hatred and intolerance?
The BNP claim that they have a democratic right to freedom of expression. However with the right to free speech comes responsibility. They should not be allowed to incite hatred and violence against other members of our community - they too have rights!
I was however heartened by a marvellous turnout of demonstrators from the UAF, Blackpool Trades Council and the local community who certainly made their voices heard! The demonstration was organised at very short notice and was a credit to all concerned.'