ON 20 September, the far-right racist BNP held a national rally in Stoke-on-Trent despite opposition from community organisations, anti-racist groups and thousands of people across the city.
As 2,000 people marched through London to protest at knife crime, the BNP held their own rally in Stoke to exploit the death of just one person, aiming to whip up racist division. Keith Brown was tragically stabbed to death by his Muslim neighbour over a year ago (see The Socialist 548).
Despite weeks of press coverage, only around 350 BNP activists turned up to their rally. In response North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (NorSCARF), Unite Against Fascism, Love Music Hate Racism, community groups and others including Stoke Socialist Party organised a 350-strong counter-rally at a 'peace and unity vigil' with speakers.
It was a good show of opposition, considering this counter-demonstration was called only a week before. Many union banners were present but Stoke Socialist Party's banner was the only one representing a political party.
After the BNP announced in the local press that they would meet at Station Hotel in Meir to go leafleting, the landlady told them this would not happen. The pub was closed instead. They were prevented from marching or using a public building for their rally, which went ahead beside a busy road.
However, around 300 anti-racists marched two miles from the peace vigil to the Jam'It Unity Festival - organised by the Youth Arts Group to build unity and diversity across the city and against the BNP's divisive message.
Around 1,000 mainly local people attended the Jam'It Unity Festival. Socialist Party members gave out thousands of leaflets and organised well-protected teams from the festival to deliver leaflets on local estates. One woman told us, "If that's a BNP leaflet, I don't want it!"
This was on top of 15,000 Socialist Party leaflets delivered across the city in the weeks before. These leaflets raised the urgent need to tackle the root causes of racism by fighting for decent jobs, homes and services. We also point to an alternative - to build a new mass party to represent ordinary working-class people. New Labour's betrayal of working people has caused a vacuum of political representation which the BNP try to exploit.
Ours was the only socialist stall at either the vigil or the Unity Festival. Many people wanted to find out more about our ideas and help us fight back against the BNP. We are campaigning to expose the BNP for having no solutions to the increasing problems faced by working-class people.