BNP day of action drowned out by local opposition
Thursday saw the BNP’s national day of action in Liverpool. This was to be when they would challenge “corruption and prejudice” against them by the BBC and Question Time, activists pouring in from across the country to make their voice heard. Unfortunately for them, it was not to be.
Initially, Liverpool Antifascists members arriving at the demonstration found it contained by the police far away from both the BNP and the Question Time venue. Both a steel barricade and a line of cops stood in the way of any potential move forward. This, we had learned, was a result of police negotiations with local trade union leaders – who, importantly, are members of neither LiverAF nor our counterparts in UAF. It is one of the key reasons why we don’t let the police dictate where we assemble or compromise our right to assemble on the basis of “good relations.”
After speaking to a comrade who had come from by the BNP demonstration, we travelled around via the next street in order to join a small but growing crowd of anti-fascists, youth, and local residents having a go at the fascists.
It was telling that the police, who had insisted that anti-fascists be shoved out of the way where nobody could see them, had allowed the BNP to hold their demo right by were people were going in to take part in the Question Time audience. There were several police vans between the “official” anti-fascist demonstration and the BNP, and both the officer in charge and police liason officers in blue hi-viz jackets continually went over to speak to the party’s members. They also studiously ignored both an assault on a black man who lived nearby and had joined the counter-protest and BNP goon Andrew Tierney/Brennus telling the man whom he’d been arrested for assaulting that he was going to saw his head off.
Every movement by anti-fascists was met with a response from the police. If we took one foot off the curb, someone rushed over to tell us to get off the road. If we paced about, they appeared to tell us to move back. We were continually told to return to our “sterile area,” and when we refused we were told that we would be moved soon anyway.
Liverpool Antifascists were upfront that we had not been consulted and had not agreed to any sterile area and that we would thus continue exercising our right to free assembly. We also demanded to know why we were supposed to stand in a cage whilst fascists had been allowed to wander over and take our photos and their “Truth Truck” was freely moving through the streets blasting out a recording of Nick Griffin. It didn’t take long before an extra line of coppers appeared and put themselves between us and the BNP, but fortunately by this time the gathering had grown to a point that it was clear we weren’t going anywhere.
The BNP contingent comprised about 30 people at its height. This included members from outside Liverpool, a few purported Liverpool EDL members, and a crew of local youth who had been involved in various smaller neo-Nazi outfits like the British Freedom Fighters and the Liverpool Front. Their main rallying cry appeared to be calling everyone “paedophiles” and saying “Google the Labour 25 paedophiles.”
Local BNP crone Hazel Hesketh decided to announce my arrival by pointing and saying “here’s Phil Dickens, the one who whips up all the trouble and gets people to hate us.” Which prompted national organiser Adam Walker to sum up all of his wit in order to declare “here’s Phil Dick…ens,” which honestly just blew my mind.
That may have been the height of the political debate on offer. I responded to a claim that the BNP would stop privatisation, cuts and job losses by asking “where are the BNP when Sure Start Centres are being closed? When libraries are being closed? When people are striking for their jobs? We’re fighting for that whilst you’re just stirring up shit about immigrants.” Peter Tierney’s considered reply was to rub his crotch and gyrate with his tongue out.
As the demo wore on, the jeers, heckling and banter on the anti-fascist side – much of it from the youth who used the nearby skate ramps and people who lived down the road in Toxteth – only increased and it was clearly eaing away at the fascists’ morale. As they descended into sullen silence, barring the occasional piss-poor attempt at goading people, the opposition only became more lively. A huge cheer went us as Tranmere Rovers Anti-Fascists unveiled their huge new banner, and leaflets from Liverpool Antifascists were gratefully received. Soon enough, even those behind the “official” demo cottoned on to what was happening and came to join us.
Not long after, the BNP and their various hangers-on got fed up and packed away. It was about half an hour before recording of Question Time was due to finish, but clearly they’d had enough. Some tried to look defiant as they left, and Peter Tierney continued to act like somebody in need of serious help, but ultimately they left.
There’s no point in overstating this as some grand victory for the anti-fascist movement, but it’s clear that it’s more than we would have gotten by obeying police orders and staying at a safe distance whilst the BNP got a free platform. This only emphasises the point made by militant anti-fascists that, rather than rely on the police, the state or other “authorities” to clamp down on fascism for us we need to organise and challenge them directly ourselves.
Download a PDF copy of our leaflet from the demo, Don’t ban the BNP – DEFEAT THEM!