Organisers of the Unite Against Fascism movement praised the “brilliant” turn-out of students at a protest against the British National Party last weekend.
The UAF had organised the protest to coincide with the BNP’s annual party conference, which took place on the weekend of the 14, 15, and 16 November at the New Kimberley Hotel, Blackpool.
Hundreds turned out to voice their opposition to the far right party, taking part in a two-and-a-half mile march from the Winter Gardens to the Kimberly Hotel.
Representing Lancaster University were members of the Lancaster University Labour Club and the Lancaster Student Assembly Against Racism. They were joined by representatives from the UAF Northwest branch, local trade unions, residents and local councillors, all of whom banded together to tell the BNP that they are not welcome in Blackpool or anywhere else in the North West.
Weyman Bennet is the national joint secretary of the UAF. He told SCAN: “I think it’s brilliant that people turned out. Also to turn out three times, three years on the trot and still have that feeling that something should be done is really, really good.”
This year is the third year the BNP have held their annual conference in Blackpool. Despite this a large number of locals did not appear to know that the fascist party were in their home town. This could be down to the BNP’s reluctance to publicise the conference, in an attempt to deter protestors.
After being informed by SCAN of the BNP’s presence in Blackpool, one local resident said: “I don’t agree with the BNP. Definitely don’t. But I think they should just be ignored. If you ignore them they’ll go away.”
The BNP are arguably the most infamous political party in the UK. Their reputation is based not only on their ties with fascist parties across Europe, but also on their racist and divisive polices.
In 2005, the party called for white British people to be given preference in the job and housing market, as well as in schools. They are also against mixed-raced relationships, as this would in their view lead to the “dilution of the white race”.
The leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, is also a convicted Holocaust denier.
The anti-fascism movement’s big fear is that the BNP will try and win a seat in the European Elections. Not only would this significantly increase their influence but it would also give them greater contact with other fascist parties across the continent.
“The danger now is that the BNP will exploit the situation with the recession,” Fleetwood councillor Clive Grunshaw explained. “They will try and appeal to people who have concerns about the financial situation, who have concerns about their job and they will offer an alternative and offer someone to blame.”
Beau Bulman, a Lancaster University student who took part in the protest, agreed with this view. He said: “The problem now with the BNP is that they’ve tried to become respectable and give the illusion they’re respectable, which we think they’re not. It’s up to us to get out here and fight them.”
Speaking at the end of the protest Richard Bennett added: “We have to mobilise effectively with other people. Get more people out there because we’re going to face a struggle. Students are crucial to this. I think if large numbers of students do vote at the next election we can stop the BNP.”