The Socialist 21 July 2009 |
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Lincoln fights back against racist BNP
ON 11 July, over 100 people marched through Lincoln city centre to oppose racism and the far-right British National Party (BNP). Lincoln trades council, together with local NUT and PCS unions, called the demonstration.
The protest was in response to the recent election of two BNP MEPs, over 1,500 people in Lincoln voting BNP in the European elections and the record number (23) of candidates who stood in the Lincolnshire county council elections for the BNP.
The vibrant and noisy march, chanting "stop the BNP, what we need is unity" and "jobs and homes not racism, stop the BNP!", gained support from most passers-by. Hundreds of leaflets were given out to people curious about what was taking place.
A rally after the demonstration heard speeches from representatives of organisations supporting the campaign. Dave Tompkins, from Lincolnshire Socialist Party, exposed the BNP's hypocritical stance to public services.
The BNP in Halifax campaigned for free bus passes for the elderly before this was government policy, only to vote with the Tories when in a position of power, to oppose their introduction. Dave called for a new party to campaign to protect and improve public services for all working-class people disillusioned with the mainstream political parties.
Graham Lewis spoke from Derby Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, which is involved in the campaign against the BNP's Red, White and Blue (RWB) festival in Codnor, Derbyshire. He told of the violence and intimidation that local residents experienced from those attending the RWB festival, and appealed to everyone to join the counter-demonstration against this year's RWB festival on 15 August.
I [Nick Parker] spoke as a local representative of the PCS union and outlined the cuts, privatisation, wealth inequality, expenses scandals and bank subsidies, supported by New Labour and the Tories, that drove many people to vote BNP. The recent PCS conference decision to consult PCS members about standing independent pro-worker candidates in elections has come at just the right time to challenge the BNP.
A tiny BNP counter-demonstration had formed to oppose the rally and unfurled a St Georges' flag with BNP written on it. A Unison member then explained that the BNP supporters might be a little uncomfortable with St George's Turkish origins!
Several people got on the megaphone to explain what was going on to passers-by. Trade unions are not just against racism and division, but also for more jobs and improvements in public services and pay for all workers. The BNP supporters left with their tails between their legs, and there was an impromptu march back up the high street so demonstrators could disperse in safety.
The local media publicity of the campaign has already encouraged two union branches to seek affiliation to the trades' council. This coverage, whilst welcome, mainly focused afterwards on the stand-off between pro-BNP and anti-BNP protesters.
It should not detract from the generally peaceful and inclusive event which we hope will be the springboard for a united campaign against the BNP before the next general election.