Opposition to the Nazi British National Party (BNP) brought hundreds onto the streets on Monday evening – just hours after the news that the BNP had picked up European Parliament seats in the North West and in Yorkshire & the Humber.
Over 1,000 people rallied in Manchester city centre against the election of BNP leader Nick Griffin.
Dick Withecombe, chair of Greater Manchester Unite Against Fascism (UAF), addressed the rally, saying, “Just 1,247 votes – that’s all the votes it took for the BNP to be able to claim to represent five million people in the North West. But we know the overwhelming majority are anti-fascist.”
Mike from Manchester UAF told Socialist Worker that speakers addressed the rally between blasts of Bob Marley and bursts of lively anti-fascist chanting. He said, “Jonny Wineberg, of the Jewish Representative Council and the Muslim-Jewish Forum, spoke of a sad day for both Jews and Muslims, and vowed to continue the campaign against Griffin. ‘This must never happen again in Manchester,’ said Jonny to loud cheers.
“Young gay activists said they had been out campaigning around Manchester’s gay village to push the anti-Nazi vote up. The rally attracted many young people who crowded around the UAF stalls, keen to get stuck into pushing back the BNP.
“Speakers from the NUJ journalists’ union and the civil service workers’ PCS union both pledged their continued support for activity against the Nazis. Karen Reissmann, psychiatric nurse and longstanding Unison activist, spoke of how millions of us were feeling ‘sick to the stomach’ at Griffin’s election win and reminded us of recent statements by leading BNP members about ‘keeping too many people with mental health problems or disabilities alive’. Karen also emphasised how anti-fascism is the majority opinion across the North West.
“Unison union activists, disability rights campaigners and former Mayor, councillor Afzal Khan, all spoke of the need to step up the fight against the BNP.
“Speaking near the close of the rally, Green Party councillor Vanessa Hall was applauded when she stressed the need for more unity. ‘We need to come together more often like this, to stop the BNP,’ she said.
“The protest was called at short notice after the successful protest against Griffin at the election count the night before. It showed the diversity of the anti-fascist movement that aims to block the advance of the BNP.”
Meanwhile 300 anti-fascists marched in Liverpool from a rally in the city centre to the BBC.
Alys, a student in Liverpool, reported that many young people joined the protest. She said, “It was the biggest demonstration I’ve been on in the city in the time I’ve lived here. We marched on the BBC to say they shouldn’t be giving airtime to fascists.
“Local unions – especially the PCS – moved quickly to tell people about the protest. Many workers came along with their families.
“The guild of students at Liverpool University sent people, as did the LGBT and black students’ groups there.
“Some people had made up placards to bring. One white women had made a placard that said ‘The BNP don’t represent me.’ Another group had made a banner out of a curtain that just read ‘BNP = hate’.”
About 200 people joined a protest in Preston town centre.
Councillor Michael Lavalette said, “It was a great turnout for a protest called at a few hours notice. It was young and angry. There were also significant trade unionists from the area – including reps from the PCS, FBU, Unison, CWU and UCU.”
Other protests across the North West included a 100-strong rally in Lancaster.
There were also lively protests across Yorkshire & the Humber, with over 100 in Leeds, 200 in Sheffield and 100 in York.
At all the rallies, anti-fascists reported an impressive spirit of unity and determination to drive back the Nazi BNP.
To get involved in countering the BNP in your area, go to » www.uaf.org.uk