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Posted on 20 August 2009 at 0:00 GMT

Marchers oppose the BNP's 'festival of hate'

March shows growing opposition to far right BNP

AROUND 1,500 marchers turned out to protest against the far-right racist BNP's "festival" in Derbyshire on 15 August. They made it clear that the BNP have no solutions to the problems faced by working people.

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

The BNP's Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons' election to the European Parliament, has served as a wakeup call, as around three times as many protested as last year. Coaches came from as far away as Dundee, Brighton and Cardiff and many more people from local towns and cities.

"Who has done more to defend jobs in Britain in the last few weeks than the BNP have ever done? A young Polish worker who helped occupy the Vestas factory", a marcher shouted.

Trade union banners on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Trade union banners on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

As the main march headed towards the farm where the camp was taking place, local residents holding the Amber Valley campaign banner were near the front. Many people came out of their houses to watch the march.

There was considerable support for the protest. One woman told me "We're glad you've come to protest, we don't want the BNP here," and a lot of people took leaflets, though there was hostility from some.

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members led chants for "Jobs and homes not racism" and explained on megaphones why it is in everyone's interests to oppose organisations like the far right, racist BNP. "Did the BNP support the Vestas workers?" "No!" and other examples rang out loud and clear.

There were less incidents than last year of supporters of the Socialist Workers Party or the SWP-dominated Unite Against Fascism shouting "Nazi scum off our streets" at local residents as well as BNP supporters without making any attempt to distinguish between the two, which had proved very divisive last year. But unfortunately it did happen again.

Trade union banners on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Trade union banners on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

As a result of the success of last year's protest and pressure from local campaigns and trade unions the main body of the demonstration was able to get much closer to the farm hosting the BNP "festival" than last year. According to Rachel Shields, a journalist from the Independent newspaper who was allowed into the camp by the BNP, our chanting could be heard inside.

Protest against the BNP, photo Paul Mattsson

Protest against the BNP, photo Paul Mattsson

One group of BNP supporters who didn't give up their attempts to get to the camp were reduced to walking across the fields. These seemed to be hardcore Nazis , judging by the Nazi salutes they kept doing - not exactly the family-friendly, wholesome image the BNP are trying to push!

Protest against the BNP, photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP, photo Jim Reaves

In addition to the main demonstration groups of around 200 protesters blockaded both ends of the lane leading to the BNP camp, turning away cars trying to reach it for some hours. Unfortunately this part of the protest was not properly stewarded or protected by UAF, which had organised it at the last minute without any discussion with the other participating groups.

As a result of this risky tactic there were a small number of injuries and probably more arrests outside the main protest than the police would have been able to make otherwise (particularly at the beginning when protesters were in very small groups), but in the main protesters soon organised stewarding themselves and marched to join the main protest in good spirits.

Protest against the BNP, photo Paul Mattsson

Protest against the BNP, photo Paul Mattsson

Sadly this shows that the leadership of UAF are still not prepared to work on a genuine basis with others, and that they are still prepared to put short-term self-promotion above the broader interest of the campaign to stop the BNP and the safety and security of protesters.

Police drone flying above anti-BNP protest, photo by Jim Reaves

Police drone flying above anti-BNP protest, photo by Jim Reaves

Derbyshire police said beforehand that they were determined to get more convictions from this year's protest than the one they got from 2008. They were prepared to spend 500,000 on policing anti-BNP demonstrators, including hiring a remote controlled drone to "gather evidence" from the air, a surreal spectacle which hovered over marchers looking like a Star Wars special effect and gathering large amounts of footage of anti-BNP protesters waving to it. However in the event they made less arrests than last year.

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

The focus of police attention was mainly on the protesters against the BNP, rather than on what activity BNP supporters were involved in. The real face of the far right was shown briefly in Brixton. As a coach left for the demonstration a large stone was thrown through one of the windows, showering people inside with broken glass including a long-standing Socialist Party member and Unison activist.

Protest against the BNP, photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP, photo Jim Reaves

Very fortunately the only injuries were minor scratches on a couple of people, but it's only luck that no one was seriously injured. The coach was unable to take people to the demonstration.

It is clear that opposition to the BNP's camp is growing, raising questions about whether or not the BNP will try to organise it in Derbyshire again next year. Certainly it appears that Amber Valley Council and the local police are now regretting making it so easy for the BNP to start using the site for their camp.

Wherever the BNP try to hold their camp in 2010, we plan to make sure that even more people turn out to oppose them.

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

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Trade unions on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Trade unions on the protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

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Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves

Protest against the BNP's 'festival of hate', photo Jim Reaves   (Click to enlarge)

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