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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 December 2009

How mass campaigning closed BNP HQ

THE FAR right BNP moved into their headquarters in Welling, south east London in 1987. Labour Party Young Socialist branches in London responded with a call to the community and trade unions to join in a united campaign to rid them from the area.

Lois Austin

Many local politicians defended their right to be there with lame arguments about defending democratic rights. We warned that this was not a harmless bookshop as the BNP claimed but an organising centre for a fascist organisation - a cancer in our community.

We warned that if the BNP were allowed to take root their organisation would grow, causing division and would be a danger to the black and Asian community.

We organised rallies and demonstrations, directly challenging the BNP and trying to prevent their activities. At times we were met by skinheads in jackboots giving the Nazi salute.

We were outnumbered by fascists and surrounded when we marched through Eltham, south east London. Our worst fears were confirmed when Greenwich council published statistics for racist attacks that showed an increase of 200% in the few years that the BNP had been active in Welling.

By 1993 there had been three racist murders. Our campaign had by this stage dug deep roots in the local trade unions and community and had taken on a national and international dimension by becoming part of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE).

We responded with bigger demonstrations and demands on local politicians, all of whom remained silent on the issue of closing the BNP HQ.

In April 1993 Stephen Lawrence was murdered. This tragic death at the hands of racist thugs sent shock waves throughout the community, black and white alike. The YRE, south London trade unions and anti-racist organisations, including Panther, the black socialist organisation, responded by calling a demonstration just a few weeks after Stephen was murdered.

Between 8,000 and 9,000, predominately young people, marched through Welling and directly passed the BNP headquarters, their anger could not be contained when it reached the building where the protesters demanded it be closed down.

A second demonstration was organised in October 1993, it was co-organised with the Anti-Nazi League, and this time had 60,000 plus on it. The momentum to close the HQ was now unstoppable, responding to mass pressure and public mood, the council set up a planning enquiry.

The YRE and the community campaign submitted a statement linking incitement to racial hatred with planning law. This was accepted as relevant and became the findings of the inquiry. Local politicians, embarrassed by their disgraceful failure to act and feeling the pressure, joined the chorus of those calling for the HQ to be shut down.

After a long hard struggle, built over seven years, finally the order was given from the authorities that the HQ had to close. But it was the mass campaign, the thousands who marched, that forced the closure and pushed the BNP back from organising in south London at that time.

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In The Socialist 2 December 2009:

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