The biggest demo Codnor has seen in recent years marched towards the BNPs Red White and Blue Festival (RWB) on Saturday August 16th. Trade Union banners and flags mixed with placards as over 500 marched to the bottom of Codnor Denby Lane, site of the festival.
By a Notts anti fascist
The day of protest represented the culmination of months of activity by the campaign network of Stop the BNP and anti fascist groups in the East Midlands. This campaign put out around 40,000 leaflets, played a key role in preventing Amber Valley Council granting the BNP a music and alcohol licence, and took the initiative in calling for a mobilisation against the BNP’s festival, a call which was taken up widely including by the trade unions, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and others.
Throughout the course of the build up to the protests, the original campaign in Nottingham helped set up groups in Amber Valley, where the BNP’s camp took place, and Derby, as well as having links with Lincoln against Racism and Fascism, which had previously organised demonstrations through Lincoln which succeeded in stopping a BNP public sale and intimidation of local socialist activists. The Stop the BNP campaign also built wide support for the protests among the trade unions, receiving particularly strong support from rail workers’ unions RMT and Aslef and the Fire Brigades Union.
The Stop the BNP campaign organised a successful rolling meeting for two hours before the demo set off. Speakers from the Socialist Party, trade unions, Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE), the Stop the BNP campaign in Nottingham and Amber Valley, and others explained their opposition to the Red, White and Blue camp. Socialist Party members and others explained the reasons for the growth of the BNP, the lack of essential services for large parts of the community and a lack of genuine political representation.
The Campaign for a New Workers Party (CNWP) was raised, calling for a voice for all working class people from different backgrounds. Rob Windsor, Socialist Party councillor and CNWP supporter, gave the example of the work that he and Dave Nellist have done on Coventry council, and how this has made it much harder for the BNP to develop a base in the city.
Local residents then marched alongside people who had travelled from Nottinghamshire, Derby, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leicester, Lincoln, Birmingham, Coventry, Reading, Wales and London to protest against the BNP’s festival.
The protest and march was subjected to unprecedented control by the police. They invoked the Public Order Act which restricted meeting and activities i around the RWB festival to a small area in Codnor. The demonstration marched form Codnor to the bottom of the lane the camp was on. The police would only allow 30 protestors up to the festival site. This was agreed in meetings between and the police and UAF, who unfortunately coordinated the demonstration without consultation with the Stop the BNP network,. At the time of writing 33 arrests were reported elsewhere around the RWB site and we have heard reports of injuries sustained by that group of protesters at the hands of the police, although the demonstration itself passed off relatively peacefully. The UAF held a rally upon the return of the march to Codnor.
The day’s action was a great success. However question marks still remain about how to campaign successfully against the BNP. The UAF have refused to negotiate with the local campaign for months and only made small concessions by allowing a speaker at the last minute when under pressure. The police and UAF had agreed that the UAF would lead the march. However, UAF set off while a trade unionist from Derby who had just begun to speak on the Stop the BNP platform was in mid flow. This “control freakery” is not only sectarian but potentially divided the protest putting people at risk.
The chanting by SWP members of slogans like “fascist scum get off our streets” to local people who are certainly not all BNP supporters can only alienate people. There was irony too. The chanters and the UAF did not allow a newly formed local campaign group to have a banner at the front nor placards from the Notts campaign. Those who claimed that Codnor were “our streets” promptly left in their buses to head away from local activity.
Local residents opposed to the BNP’s camp also felt affronted. Two local supporters of the Stop the BNP network told us: “When the march was turned around and coming back through the town, we went to the front to put the local banner to the front. Personally I felt having held up all the streets, having got the residents out, I thought it was very important as we marched back up that all the residents that were out should see that it was a local protest with national backing but we were manhandled, physically and verbally and told to get out of the way and that we weren’t important, that it wasn’t a local it was a national concern. It is a national concern but it needs to be locally led.”
Another added “For every community you need to have the local face of it but show that it has national backing. The local campaigners need to be visible to show that it is the community that is united against fascism, not that it’s a bus load of people from London.”
A conference has been called on September 27 by the East Midlands Stop the BNP network. This conference will discuss vital questions such as how best to campaign effectively against the BNP, and how to build on existing links with local trade unions and activists.