By Mike Wood
On Monday 16 January Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, and Mark Collett appeared at Leeds Crown Court charged with inciting racial hatred. A hundred or so BNP supporters greeted them as they entered the court. Around 700-800 people were there to protest against him.
Whilst the BNP had bussed their membership in from all around the country to make the best showing possible, the protestors had mobilised people from the local area who could make it. This included a strong contingent from Leeds University, and a smaller one from the University of York. Also there were representatives of a wide array of trade unions and trades councils from the area. The demonstration was large, diverse and extremely vocal.
Nevertheless a hundred BNP supporters is both more than I would have expected and certainly more than I’d have liked. Last time they appeared at Leeds Crown Court they had brought a large banner with a George Orwell quote, which, bearing in mind Orwell’s politics, highlighted in rather stunning fashion the average intelligence of those on their side of the demonstration. This time the banner was, sadly, nowhere to be seen but had been replaced with a series of placards with various slogans concerning 1984. I don’t know what the slogans were, as the placards were all but illegible to everyone except the BNP supporters standing next to them. What the BNP lacked in ignorance this time round had been made up for in incompetence.
The court case, and the demonstration around it, seem to prove a number of things. Firstly it shows that current laws against the incitement of racial hatred are capable of dealing with racism against Muslims. Collett and Griffin are charged with claiming that an influx of Muslim people has turned Britain into a “multi-racial hell-hole”. Further laws against incitement to religious hatred are not necessary to bring racists like this to court.
The demonstration also showed the strength of feeling against the BNP’s views, and the wide base of support the campaign against them has. Talking to those on the demonstration people mostly seemed quite upbeat about the campaign against the BNP in the area. Whilst there were probably less than 1000 people there, the campaign mobilises different people at each demonstration, and the BNP presence seems to be getting smaller, or at least much less willing to appear in public.
It is necessary to continue hounding the BNP, to show them that their views are not acceptable in our communities. Public demonstrations like this cannot fail to demoralise their supporters and weaken them as an organisation.