500 hundred socialists, trade-unionists and residents rallied in Codnor, Derbyshire, on 16 August, to show opposition to the fascist British National Party's "summer festival" being held on a farm near the village. The protest was called by NottsStopTheBNP (NSTB) which is supported nationally by RMT and ASLEF. It had intended to prevent BNPers getting to the farm by blocking road access but a Public Order Act ruling imposed by the police and a lack of numbers severely limited that aspect of the protest.
Instead the protesters held a rally from 9am until 11am at which a lot of local people spoke. They had made contact with us sometime during the previous 18 months of continuous anti BNP campaigning activity. From 11.00 onwards we were joined by a contingent of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) supporters whose national organisation had called a separate demo and rally for the day (see below). A farcical state of affairs then ensued with UAF members not joining the NSTB rally for a while because they didn’t know who we were!
At about 11.30 we began marching towards the “festival” site but were stopped by the police before we got there. There were some attempts to break through the police lines and during a lull in the pushing and shoving Bob Crow gave a speech.
Later, 30 members of UAF were allowed to go to the entrance of the farm to make a symbolic protest but again this was done without first talking to the local campaign which had mobilised about 80% of those present.
After a few hours we marched back to a UAF rally. Many of the speeches here were smug, self-congratulatory or complacent, as if the protest had been a success simply because we had turned up and had some photos taken. It was left largely to the NSTB speaker to give a more balanced account. He praised the creation of a vibrant AmberValleyStopTheBNP group (Amber Valley is the administrative area that Codnor is in) and highlighted the continuing need to develop a working class political response to the BNP. The use of the Public Order Act was roundly condemned as an infringement of civil liberties and the shaky state of anti-fascist campaigning were also mentioned.
There is a follow up conference to discuss the protest and future work which has been called by the East Midlands Stop The BNP network. It will take place in Nottingham on 27 September. Further info here.
NottsStopTheBNP publicly called its protest 7 months before the event. UAF called theirs 6 weeks before. NSTB tried for 3 or 4 months to meet with UAF to coordinate the action. When UAF finally agreed to meet 3 weeks before the protest they were obstructive and dismissive of the local campaign. This was expected because they had already publicised their action with a different timetable and purpose for the day and they had entered into negotiations with the police, all without a word to NSTB. So much for uniting against fascism.
RMT members who have been involved in organising this protest will be calling on the union nationally to address these concerns with UAF.