22 August 2009

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21 August 2009

The BNP will lose the argument

It's not hard to intellectually undermine the far-right party – don't just dismiss its racist arguments, break them down

Last weekend the BNP's annual shindig, "Red, White and Blue", took place in a small town in Derbyshire. Reports said that there were actually fewer attendees than there were anti-fascist protesters outside the gate. Unfortunately, some of these anti-BNP protesters soon became violent – leading to 19 being arrested. Although it is good to see ordinary people protesting against the BNP, such protests become ineffective when they descend into heavy-handed violence. Just a week earlier, for example, violent clashes erupted between the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism in Birmingham, leading to bottles, sticks and banners thrown, and brought police in riot gear on to the streets. This ended up actually boosting the BNP after the Daily Mail and other papers ran full-page pictures of Asian youths attacking white protesters.

Violence is not the answer to countering the BNP. A paper I authored entitled In Defence of British Muslims: A response to BNP racist propaganda was released last week. Since about 2006 (particularly post-7/7), the BNP has consciously changed its rhetoric from being overtly anti-Asian, anti-black and anti-Jewish to being ardently anti-Muslim. My paper takes 10 of the key accusations made against Islam and British Muslims by the BNP and points out their intellectual inconsistencies and factual weaknesses. Rather than simply dismissing the BNP's ideology as racist or bigoted (an approach that the BNP's steady popularity proves is not working) or resorting to violence, there needs to be a greater focus on intellectually undermining it through a systematic deconstruction of its arguments.

This task is not particularly taxing. The BNP's arguments are easily undermined using proper statistics and historical and textual evidence. Nick Griffin's broad argument is that Islam is an "efficient imperialistic machine" with a "conscious and deliberate plan" to take over and Islamify Europe and install an Islamic state.

First, Islam is not a religion with a cunning master-plan for its adherents to emigrate with the intention of mass conversion. The Islamic concept of migration (hijrah) is to flee from religious persecution rather than a calculated drive for world domination. Second, Muslims constitute roughly 3.3% of Britain's entire population (according to government estimates in 2008). Despite population increases, is one of the greatest threats to the UK today really an impending Islamic takeover?

The BNP makes a significant proportion of its accusations on the basis of the impending Islamic state; one that will restrict individual freedoms and apply a literalistic form of Islamic penal code. These are arguments that Griffin has (knowingly) made on the basis of the ideas of a small minority of Islamists rather than the majority Muslim population; projecting extremist interpretations as representative of Islam in general. The BNP takes this even further, making the claim that Muslims support the tactics of jihadists: "The fifth characteristic of immigrant Muslim populations in all nations has been their widespread support for terrorism." This claim of "widespread support" is in fact based on a 9% figure taken from a 2006 NOP report, and is therefore both hyperbolic and factually inaccurate.

This is an intellectual battle that needs to take place at all levels of society. The specific allegations against Islam need to be refuted, at least in part, by Muslim communities themselves. Rather than extremist voices, the majority Muslim population needs to acquire the confidence to undermine the slurs being made against it and show that it will not be held to account for the actions of a minority faction of Islamist extremists.

This intellectual challenge also needs to be made by the British politicians who claim to represent the Muslim communities. The British MEPs' recent shunning of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons in the European parliament is certainly a step in the right direction, but we also need a simultaneous breakdown of their arguments. Nick Clegg's description of the BNP as "a party of thugs" or David Cameron's statement that he was "sickened" by their EU election success will not alone persuade people not to vote BNP. Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, wrote in a foreword to the paper that "The political class has recoiled in shock and indignation following the BNP's recent electoral successes, yet has failed to confront the way they demonise British Muslims … because of this vacuum the BNP have been able to focus on an extremist Islamism as being representative of the views of all Muslims."

Finally, British society needs to start responding more thoughtfully to the views of the BNP. These issues are not limited to British Muslims. The BNP has not abandoned its sentiments towards other minority communities (its whites-only admission policy is under scrutiny by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission), and other minority groups must also stand up to such discrimination. Muslim communities should not face intolerance in isolation, but should be bolstered by the support of British society as a whole. Smear campaigns against BNP candidates who supposedly have "Nazi" written on their number-plates are insufficient. The BNP needs to be intellectually challenged by all who condemn concepts of racism, intolerance and segregation, and stand for a free and fair society in Britain.

Lucy James at Comment Is Free (hosted by The Guardian)

20 August 2009

UAF back Birmingham United campaign

The Stirrer's Birmingham United campaign to show the city's peaceful support for our cultural and racial diversity has won backing from Unite Against Fascism. Mike Wongsam, Chairperson West Midlands UAF explains why.

Twice in recent months, Birmingham has played host to racist protestors. Now there is a threat they will return again. How should the people of Birmingham respond?

Adrian Goldberg has suggested a "Birmingham United" event to give people of different colours and varying faiths a chance to show to the outside world the true face(s) of this great city. It is a great idea, and one that Unite Against Fascism will strongly support.

We think the best, and most effective, response to those who would spread hatred and division is for Birmingham to come together in a spirit of unity. Birmingham is a multi-cultural city and proud of it. We are one society and many cultures. Our diversity is one of the things that make this city special.

We do not want to see a repeat of the violence that broke out on August 8th. If the Birmingham United idea can be turned into reality it would be the best possible demonstration of our rejection of these hate-mongers, and the best possible assertion of the true face of Birmingham. It should be peaceful and united. It deserves the support of all of us.

The story of August 8th, though, should not be distorted. There is an attempt to paint anti-fascist protestors as "outsiders" and "trouble-makers", no different from the racist thugs who came to cause the trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was obvious to anyone who was there that the anti-fascist protestors were almost exclusively from Birmingham. Large numbers of young people assembled because they feel, rightly, that this is as much their city as anyone else's. And they were not prepared to turn the other cheek when repeatedly provoked by racist gangs hurling abuse.

The days when Black and Asian people felt they had to cross the road rather than risk a confrontation with racists are long gone.

Unite Against Fascism called the protest, responsibly negotiated with the police at all stages, and provided stewards. It is, however, asking a lot for volunteer stewards to achieve what the police were ultimately unable to do in the face of repeated racist provocations.

Those who think this anger can be whipped up by "outsiders" or those with a "political agenda" are deluding themselves. Many people assembled under the banner of UAF, but the truth is that the vast majority were not members of UAF, and most had arrived after hearing from friends that the "BNP" were coming to abuse Muslims in our city centre. In the age of the internet, news travels fast.

Repeated racist demonstrations will inevitably provoke a response. The anger that was felt by these young people cannot be turned on and off by anybody, and certainly not by UAF. But this risks creating a dangerous situation in our city centre. That is a challenge for all of us. And we all have a responsibility to do something positive to respond to it.

In his August 6 column in the Birmingham Mail, Adrian Goldberg said: "In the absence of a ban, it would be nice to see some forthright condemnation of this protest from figureheads in the church and politics, but I guess civic leadership is something we lack in Birmingham right now".

Quite right. It is not enough for us to bury our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away. All of us who oppose racism and fascism have to stand together and speak out against those would divide our city and inflame tensions.

Let us show that Birmingham really is united.

Join the Birmingham United Facebook group here.

The Stirrer

(Stirrer editor and Birmingham Mail columnist Adrian Goldberg also hosts a nightly phone-in show on TalkSport Radio, between 1 and 5 am.)

17 August 2009

Three charged over racial taunt at BNP rally

Three people have been charged with racially aggravated public order offences after a group heading to a far-right British National Party camp on Saturday taunted anti-racism protesters, police said.

Derbyshire police arrested 19 people during the mainly peaceful anti-BNP rally near a farm outside the village of Codnor where the BNP's Red, White and Blue festival was held over the weekend.

The three were among a group who crossed fields to get to the camp on foot under police escort as hundreds of demonstrators waving placards saying "the BNP is a Nazi party" blocked road access to the site.

The BNP, which campaigns to halt immigration and repatriate immigrants voluntarily, won its first two seats in the European Parliament in June.

Although it has no representatives in the British parliament, the party has won support from white voters angry about unemployment and access to public housing and other services during the worst recession in generations.


16 August 2009

BNP targets children as recruits for party's youth wing

YBNP annual training camp 2008 - Mirror story

Inside the tent adorned with the Union Jack and St George’s flag, Peter and Anthony are on a recruiting drive.

They hand out leaflets telling potential converts that their organisation is not racist, merely “helping to resist the racist colonisation of Britain”.

Their table is scattered with postcards of young, white women draped in the Union Jack, holding placards with the reminder that “nationalism is for girls too”. The pair tell The Times that the British National Party is great for the country and that they are proud to support it.

However, they are unable to articulate why they are attracted to the far-right party, and they squirm in their seats when asked about their understanding of issues such as racism, nationalism and discrimination. They may be simply too young to appreciate such concepts: Anthony is 14 and Peter just 12 years old.

Nevertheless, the pair spent the weekend recruiting for the youth wing of the BNP at the party’s annual gathering in Derbyshire, which attracted several hundred families.

Peter, whose mother brought him to the event, said: “Young BNP is just about making sure that we are going to have a good place in the normal BNP when we’re older, and that’s what we want. It’s cool, we play lots of sports and stuff.” Several events at the Red, White and Blue Festival, which was picketed by protesters, were geared towards youth in what anti-fascist groups said was “disturbing indoctrination” and an attempt to create a new generation of nationalist sympathisers.

Young children’s faces were painted with the Union Jack and many sported BNP T-shirts and fake tattoos of crusaders and the St George’s flag. They were encouraged to throw wet sponges at a man in the stocks, who was dressed in Islamic clothing and wearing an Osama bin Laden mask.

Even infants were exposed to the nationalist cause, with toys and blow-up furniture in the children’s tent being decorated with the Union Jack.

Simon Darby, the deputy leader of the BNP, told The Times that the younger generation was “very important” for the future of the party. “We don’t think short-term, we think long-term,” he said.

Mr Darby denied that the party was indoctrinating youth: “We’re just pointing out another side of things — that it isn’t a good idea to completely destroy our own culture. We are making sure they know that white people aren’t inferior, because that’s what they are being taught in schools.”

However, anti-fascist groups whose blockade of the event, near Denby, resulted in 19 arrests after clashes with police, said that the BNP’s approach was “very dangerous”. Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said that the BNP was actively trying to recruit the young in a new drive because so many of its members were from older generations. “It’s really dangerous. They are trying to normalise their politics among young children. It is very concerning — do we really want this to be going on in our playgrounds?”

Alongside Peter and Anthony, Tristan Simekins, 18, had travelled from Corsham, Wiltshire, to recruit for the BNP’s student wing.

His leaflets explained that the movement provided advice to young people on dealing with “anti-white discrimination”. He said: “My problem is with the indoctrination of Islam. I admit not all Muslims are evil, but I feel Islam is.”

Times Online

RWB reports 2

15 August 2009

'Barack Obama' is put in stocks as festivities kick off at the BNP summer party

The BNP have often denied being a racist party. But as a man dressed as U.S. president Barack Obama was put in stocks, the true colours of the party were clear for all to see.

The shocking scene was part of the BNP's annual Red, White and Blue festival which is taking place in Codnor, Derbyshire this weekend.

The rally, in its 10th year, has sparked widespread controversy and today protesters descended on the site to show their opposition. A spokeswoman for Derbyshire Police said a small number of arrests had been made near the village of Codnor as hundreds of demonstrators voiced their opposition to the festival.

'Those arrests were of protesters who had been acting unlawfully,' the spokeswoman said, adding that some of the demonstrators had gathered outside approved protest zones.

The main body of demonstrators, which is being monitored by police CCTV cameras, gathered in Codnor's Market Place and is expected to march to Codnor Denby Lane later. Campaign group Unite Against Fascism has joined forces with Midlands TUC and local protest group Amber Valley Campaign Against Racism and Fascism to bring hundreds of anti-fascist protesters to the area.

They plan to 'kettle' the rally today and have organised the protest march to the site of the festival and back again.

Kettling, also known as containment or corralling, is sometimes used by police and involves a large cordon to contain a crowd in a limited area. The move comes after an open letter was published yesterday on Unite Against Fascism's website, condemning the event. The letter, whose signatories include former London mayor Ken Livingstone, children's author Michael Rosen and trade union leaders, said the event's purpose was to 'build up a hardened neo-Nazi core at the centre of the organisation'.

It said: 'We condemn the BNP and its festival of race hate, and we urge people to reject this party's poisonous and anti-democratic agenda.'

This year is not the first time the festival has attracted opposition. Last year about 30 anti-BNP protesters were arrested after clashes with police. Derbyshire Police have planned a 'significant policing operation' throughout the three-day event, including restrictions on the planned protests.

Yesterday a American white supremacist was stopped from entering the country to attend the Red, White and Blue Festival.

Preston Wiginton, a close associate of BNP leader Nick Griffin, was turned away at Heathrow because officials believed his presence would stir up racial tension. There were suggestions he would be speaking at the event, but the BNP denied these rumours.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said Mr Wiginton, 44, was sent back to New York from Heathrow airport on Thursday.

The BNP's deputy leader Simon Darby said of Mr Wiginton: 'He came to last year's Red, White and Blue and was coming to this year's but they wouldn't let him in for some reason. He wasn't coming to speak.'

Mr Wiginton, a freshman student at Texas A & M university, wrote an essay in 2006 which described non-white immigration as 'an abnormal growth that is threatening the life of American culture and the life of American people'.

He said: 'If action is taken, and time is of the essence, this cancer can be eradicated.' If not, he added, 'the death of the American way of life, identity and sovereignty is certain.'

He is rumoured to spend half of the year living in a flat in Moscow that he sublets from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In October 2007 he organised and paid for Nick Griffin to speak at three American universities to coincide with Islam Awareness Week. As well as financing the trip he also appealed to members of Nazi internet forums to donate money to the BNP.

Later that year he organised a march in the Russian capital at which leading Nazis addressed a crowd of fascists shouting 'death to Jews' and 'glory to Russia.' He also spearheaded the support for Griffin during his trial for inciting racial hatred in 2006, and set up an online petition urging the British Government to drop the prosecution.

He regularly posts anti-Semitic messages on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront. One reads: 'And the Jew - how many nations and economies have they destroyed - yes they were doing this in many centuries ago as well. The Jew has infested every nation - there is no where else to go.'

Nick Lowles, editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said the decision to ban him was 'great news'. He added: 'He is one of the world's most extreme racists - this shows what the BNP are really like.'

Mail online

RWB reports 1

14 August 2009

BNP nazi guest barred from UK

A white supremacist friend of Nick Griffin, the British National Party leader, was banned from entering Britain yesterday as he headed to speak at the BNP’s Red White and Blue festival this weekend.

Preston Wiginton (left), one of the world’s most active nazis and antisemites, was refused entry by immigration officers at Heathrow airport under laws to keep out “undesirables”. He was to have been the star overseas guest at the BNP’s tenth RWB festival, which opens today in Derbyshire.

It was Wiginton, 44, who organised Griffin’s anti-Islam tour of three US universities at the end of October 2007. As well as financing the trip, Wiginton appealed to users of the Stormfront nazi internet forum to donate money to Griffin while he was in America.

Wiginton had been unknown in the UK before Griffin’s trip and it was Searchlight that exposed him and revealed his extensive nazi activities and connections. This was no doubt what brought him to the attention of the UK Border Agency.

Shortly after his tour Griffin wrote an open letter to “European Colleagues” endorsing Wiginton’s involvement in organising a march in Moscow at which leading nazis addressed a crowd of fascists giving the Nazi salute while shouting “death to the Jews” and “Pure Russia”.

Griffin praised Wiginton as a “very effective organiser [who], rarely among American nationalists, understands the importance of image and popular acceptability to all nationalist parties”. The letter explained that Wiginton “is very well connected in Russia, with good contacts with various nationalist organisations and elected politicians”. The organisations to which he refers are some of the most racist and murderous neo-nazi groups and skinhead gangs in Russia who have been responsible for dozens of racist murders.

Referring to Wiginton’s role in planning a “major march and rally” in Moscow Griffin continued “the BNP supports this endeavour wholeheartedly and asks all our European comrades to do likewise, hopefully thereby creating the beginnings of an effective cooperation between patriots of both Western and Orthodox Christendom against our common enemies: Mass immigration; radical Islamism; Western liberalism and Wall Street/White House dollar imperialism”. The language is typical of neo-nazis.

Griffin and Wiginton have collaborated for many years. Wiginton spearheaded US support for Griffin during his trial for inciting racial hatred, setting up an online petition calling on the British government to drop the prosecution. Together with Jamie Kelso of Stormfront, he also organised a protest outside the British consulate in Houston, Texas in January 2006.

Wiginton’s connections and activities are wide-ranging. He caused a furore at Texas A&M university some years ago by arranging a series of meetings for Frosty Wooldridge, a prominent opponent of immigration. The two men ran a joint campaign to repeal a 2001 Texas law that allows immigrants to pay the same reduced fees at state universities as Texas residents.

These days Wiginton works with the Texas chapter of the Minuteman Project, a group of would-be vigilantes who take violent exception to Mexican immigrants, or the “mestizo parasite” as he prefers to call them.

Kevin Strom, leader of the neo-nazi National Vanguard (NV), was another associate until his arrest on child pornography charges when Wiginton and Griffin dropped him like a ton of bricks. Wiginton boasts of being friends with perhaps the most famous NV member, April Gaede, mother of the nazi pop twins Prussian Blue. Their act is named after the chemical residue left by Zyklon B, the gas used to murder the Jews in the Nazi death camps.

Wiginton also has close ties to Denis Gerasimov, lead singer of the notorious Russian white power band Kolvorat (Swastika), for whom he wrote a racist ditty on how immigration is diluting the purity of Russia’s “blood” and “soil”.

Despite repeated denials to the contrary Wiginton regularly posts antisemitic vitriol to Stormfront to which he also donates money. A typical posting of his, on 13 July 2007, read: “And the jew – how many nations and economies have they destroyed – yes they were doing this in many centuries ago as well. The jew has infested every nation – there is no where else to go.”

That Griffin should invite this hardline nazi to help celebrate his election to the European Parliament at the BNP annual festival shows yet again that the BNP’s claim to legitimacy is just a pretence and that Griffin has not moved far from his fascist roots.

Searchlight/Hope not hate

11 August 2009

Former BNP candidate charged over distribution of leaflets

A former British National Party election candidate has been charged in connection with the distribution of leaflets which alleged Muslims were responsible for the heroin trade.

Anthony Bamber, 53, of Greenbank Street, Preston, Lancashire, is accused of incitement to commit religious hatred, police said.

The leaflet was distributed in Burnley and reportedly circulated in other parts of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire. It urged people to "heap condemnation" on Muslims and said it was time to "apologise" over its claims they were responsible for 95 per cent of the world's heroin trade.

A photograph of Rachel Whitear, 21, who was found dead at her flat in Exmouth, Devon, in May 2000, holding a syringe, accompanied the literature.

A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: "Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service a 53-year-old man from Preston has been charged in connection with an investigation into the distribution of leaflets in Lancashire which claim Muslims are responsible for the heroin trade."

Bamber, who stood for the BNP at local elections in Preston in 2006, will appear at Preston Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

Three other men, all from East Lancashire, arrested as part of the investigation were told by police last month they would not face charges over the matter.

Supporters of the BNP, including party leader Nick Griffin, demonstrated outside the police station in Burnley last November following the dawn raid arrests.

Lancashire Telegraph

10 August 2009

Far-right group, the English Defence League, in disarray after Birmingham fracas

A rightwing group, which has promised a summer of demonstrations against British Muslims, was in disarray today after its first significant protest ended in violence and 35 arrests.

The English Defence League staged a march near the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham this weekend but its small band of supporters was drastically outnumbered by anti-fascist campaigners and riot police. The protest ended in violent skirmishes and running battles through the city’s busy shopping streets on Saturday evening.

Members of the League resorted to bitter in-fighting today as supporters labelled the organisers “ridiculous” and the event a “shambles”.

At least three people were injured as hundreds of police, some in full riot gear, broke up fights between anti-Islamic protesters and anti-fascist groups who came to disrupt the demonstration. At one point officers were forced to seal off New Street with a steel barrier.

Emily Bridgewater, who was shopping when violence broke out, told the Birmingham Post: “It kicked off very suddenly and there was stampeding and screaming.

“We ended up being herded into Primark, where they brought the shutters down to protect us. It was very frightening.”

The League publicised its demonstration in the weeks leading up to the march and claimed that another would be held in Luton on August Bank Holiday weekend.

Despite efforts to promote the event, fewer than 100 were thought to have gathered. Left-wing groups including Unite Against Fascism were alerted to the march and were able to organise a counter demonstration.

One member of the League’s online forum, registered as Adder, wrote: “I support you guys but yesterday was a shambles and you made us English look like an embarrassment. What exactly happened to supposed 'In the high hundreds' who were supposed to turn up? I saw the video and it seemed like there was barely 70 of you.

“Holding it such a high profile public place, ridiculous idea [sic]. That's just asking for normal civilians minding their own business to get attacked.”

Neil Edy, another member of the website, said: “I went to the march ... the turn out to the event wasnt good enuf only a few of us were there supporting the cause.”

Another sympathiser, calling himself Bill, said that he had not been able to find the others: “We were in the City most the afternoon, but then left as we had no one to contact and meet with, and we werent the only ones.”

Despite the failure of the first large event, the League insists it will continue to hold demonstrations. Comments on the group’s website, and the affiliated football hooliganism site Casuals United said that the next one would be bigger.

One message on the Casuals United site read: “We will arrange it via the Inner Circles secret forums, so we will arrive unnanounced and neither the police or the scum will know any details.”

Some members may find it more difficult to travel to future demonstrations after West Midlands Police said that they were studying footage of the violence and would consider applying for injunctions against troublemakers.

A police spokesman explained that the English Defence League had not informed local police of their intension to march but said that officers had no power to prevent a demonstration.

The English Defence League claim not to be a racist group and say that they have no ties with the British National Party. One of the websites linked to the League is believed to have been set up by a known BNP member, but that has now been taken down in an apparent attempt to conceal any link.

Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, insisted that there was no link with the group. He said: “It’s a potentially very dangerous development. I understand it mainly comes from Luton ... which is a tinderbox.”

The group, which organises events on its website and through a Facebook group with 198 members, plans to hold its next large official gatherings in Harrow and Luton in August and then in Manchester in October.

The Times

Police ready for clashes at British National Party festival

Police are to conduct a huge security operation in a Derbyshire village this week amid fears of clashes at an annual British National Party gathering.

Eighty coachloads of anti-Fascists are to protest over the Red, White and Blue festival in Denby, which is likely to attract thousands of supporters next weekend. Up to a thousand police officers will be stationed in the village. There was violence last year and greater disruption is expected this time. It is the BNP’s first mass gathering since it won two European seats in June.

Lee Barron, a trade union organiser of the protest, said that a peaceful march was planned and that violent protesters should stay away.

The BNP advertises its festival as a family event involving historical re-enactments, Morris dancing and a dog show. However, previously there have been complaints by local people about skinheads with vicious dogs descending on their village and playing tapes of Third Reich martial tunes.

Police officers have been granted special powers across the four-day event, which begins on Friday, to prevent more than 20 people gathering in certain areas of the village, among other restrictions.

Residents asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution for speaking out against the BNP, but told The Times that the party was not welcome. One said: “It is a place of warmth and tolerance and we don’t want to be associated with these people.”

Simon Darby, the deputy leader of the BNP, denied that the location of the festival was inappropriate and said that the presence of two BNP representatives on the local council showed that the party had support. “We’d have the same problems wherever we had it. Its the Left that are causing all the problems,” Mr Darby said.

Weyman Bennett, of the Unite Against Fascism group, said that the BNP rally would be a “magnet for Fascists and neo-Nazis from across Europe”. Mr Bennett said: “We want to make sure that there is opposition.”

The festival, in its tenth year, was moved from Lancashire to Denby three years ago. It will be held on a 34-acre property owned by Alan Warner, a local BNP member.

Times Online

9 August 2009

Birmingham city centre protests: Riot police arrest thirty-three people

Riot police made 33 arrests tonight as they fought running battles with rival protesters as racial tensions spilled over on the streets of Birmingham.

Two people were injured as violence broke out in the city centre between a right-wing group campaigning against Muslim extremists and anti-fascists. The rivals had held vocal but peaceful protests in separate parts of the city centre until trouble flared in New Street just before 7pm.

Terrified shoppers cowered in Primark and Saturday night revellers fled in panic as hundreds of police, some clad in full riot gear, struggled to keep the peace. As our dramatic pictures show, at one point a man shields his head as he lies prone on the ground while a young thug attempts to kick him in the face. Another photograph appears to show a middle-aged man throwing a punch as he is confronted by another man as tensions reach boiling point.

By 8.30pm police had restored order, but tensions remained high. A West Midlands Police spokesman said: ‘‘We can confirm 33 arrests have been made to date the majority for disorder. To date there has been one report of criminal damage to a car, although we expect further reports. We have also had reports of two people being injured and no known injuries to police officers. A high visibility policing presence continues. A post operation investigation has now commenced into any criminality that took place during this afternoon’s protests.’’

The unrest flared after a group called Casuals United organised the city centre demonstration against Islamic fundamentalists. The group rumoured to have links to the English and Welsh Defence League and the far-right BNP were formed after radical Muslims caused outrage by protesting against returning British troops in Luton earlier this year.

But Unite Against Fascism organised a rival rally after claiming the Casuals are made up of hardcore soccer hooligans intent on causing racial unrest. Their protest took place next to Birmingham’s Bullring, while the Casuals gathered outside the council house in Victoria Square.

It us unclear what sparked the disorder, but riot police were soon involved in a large number of incidents and at one point they were forced to seal off New Street with a steel barrier. Other officers were seen running ran across Corporation Street, desperately trying to keep the opposing sets of protesters apart.

Scared shoppers fled in all directions as chaos and confusion descended on the city centre. Emily Bridgewater was buying clothes in Primark on New Street when violence broke out. She said: "Everything seemed fine until suddenly it all kicked off outside and there was stampeding and screaming. We ended up being locked in Primark, the shutters came down and the alarms went off as the riot police tried to regain control of the street. It was very frightening."

Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood condemned those involved in the disorder. The Labour MP had previously called for the Casuals rally to be banned after the Sunday Mercury first revealed the plans. He said: "I predicted this would happen when the Casuals announced their protest. Lots of innocent people, children and families, could have been hurt in this idiotic incident and I wholeheartedly condemn both sides for taking part in these scenes which have brought shame on Birmingham.

"I condemn the Casuals for organising their protest and inciting this fighting but I equally condemn the anti-fascist campaigners who rose to the bait. People have a democratic right to protest. But perhaps in future West Midlands police should look at holding sensitive demonstrations on separate days. That way they might avoid the scenes which have blighted our city centre tonight."

A West Midlands Police spokesman said the force had been aware of the planned rally by the Casuals but no formal request to march had been received. He said: ‘‘An additional counter protest also took place in the city centre by Unite Against Fascism. West Midlands Police has been in talks with leaders of this organisation and they have fully co-operated with police throughout the planning stages for this event.’’

Sunday Mercury

8 August 2009

Barnbrook a non-person?

Just a few days before his hearing before the Standards Board and a week before the BNP's annual Derbyshire love-in for racists news has been reaching us that the party's much lauded Greater London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook is in deep trouble with the paranoic British National Party leadership.

In Orwellian moves typical of Nick Griffin and his Stalinist style of leadership the BNP has ceased making positive mentions of the man who, until the election of Griffin and ex-Nazi Andrew Brons to the European Parliament, had been the BNP's most prominent elected politician, and - more ominously - has removed a link to Barnbrook's blog from the main BNP website.

In fact the blog has disappeared altogether, replaced with a photo of Barnbrook captioned with the sinister words "Under reconstruction".

Since Griffin's election to the Euro Parliament a cabal of Griffin yes-men has been put in place to run the party during the leader's frequent absences, and it appears there has been widespread resentment at the influence of these lackies, who include the idiotic Mark Collett and shady South African emigre and former spook Arthur Kemp.

There is also on-going disquiet that yet again the party is to be fined for failure to file its accounts on time, internal BNP financial practices that give rise to suspicions of fraud, and - last but not least - some of the more savvy members have finally worked out that despite the lucky chance that saw Griffin and Brons elected to Europe, the party's performance was dismal in both the European and County Council elections.

This was driven home when the Griffin-selected candidate for the Norwich North by-election, the fake "reverend" Robert West, scraped only a morale destroying 2.7% of the vote, and in three notable local by-elections in recent weeks where its vote plummeted by a half to two thirds.

Richard Barnbrook seems to have become associated with BNP dissidents who believe that Griffin should step aside from the leadership, and his punishment (so far) seems to be that of being made persona non grata.

Griffin runs the BNP with the same degree of paranoia that he once ran the National Front, divisions and purges following the man around like a dog on a lead. Making Barnbrook a non-person could be the harbinger to yet another round of Griffin-inspired expulsions, but we doubt that Barnbrook himself will be touched unless a plausible excuse can be found to sell his departure to the gullible BNP membership.

We are, though, expecting the fun to begin at regional and branch level very soon as Griffin's men identify and isolate the dissenters.

7 August 2009

Dispersal orders issued ahead of anti-Muslim demo

Anti Muslim protestors and their anti fascist counterparts planning to gather in Birmingam on Saturday will be greeted by draconian dispersal orders, warning them that the police can move on any gathering of two people or more if they believe they have good cause.

There has been no advance publicity about the decision to invoke the powers, which are presumably based on anti-terror legislation, but warning notices have already started appearing on lamposts around the city centre. The powers will also remain "live" for several weeks after the event.

The threat to the civil liberties of ordinary peace-loving Brummies is being compromised, it seems, to allow a group of far-right rabble rousers to have a march on the busiest shopping day of the week - a privilege recently denied to pro-Palestinian marchers protesting against Israel's invasion of Gaza.

Free speech is of course a precious right - but the police also have the job of upholding the law which, last time we looked, forbids incitement to racial hatred.

West Midlands Police were unavailable for comment last night.

The Stirrer

4 August 2009

Far-right talks up violence threat

Far right groups staging a demo against Muslim “extremism” in Birmingham on Saturday are already talking up the prospect of violence – no doubt hoping that it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A previous demo in the city last month was organised by the English and Welsh Defence League, who had links to the BNP – while spokesman Paul Ray argued in a radio interview that all devout Muslims are “at war with our country”.

He's now taking a backseat in organising the campaign, having passed the mantle to a group called Casuals United who describe themselves as “ex football lads united against extremists”.

They claim not to be racists or Nazis, but their site talks unashamedly about “removing Islam”. The group also says it’s liaising with West Midlands police about a march from the Bull Ring to the “council offices”.

The choice of date of their visit may or may not be coincidental (the eighth of the eighth has been linked to the eighth letter of the alphabet, giving the initials HH for ‘Heil Hitler’) but in any event it spells trouble for Brum.

One posting on the racist Stormfront website yesterday, talks up the prospect of aggro. It says: “This could well be the turning point, if it all descends into violence we must not lose, our future depends on it!

“They will not be up for a bout of 'fisty cuffs', they will be armed. So be prepared (how 'prepared' is up to you).

”Have your cameras ready, as when the police come wading in on OUR PEOPLE, you need to film the severe beatings they dish out, and also the grace with which they treat the opposition. This could prove priceless later!

”Suggest that a splinter group meet outside Zavvi's at 5pm and 'introduce themselves whole heartedly' to the reds, before the reds have the luxery [sic] of police (liebour stormtrooper) protection.”

There have been suggestions that Muslim youths and anti-fascist protestors might be on hand to provide a “welcoming committee” – which would no doubt be just what these agitators would want.

The question now has to be asked whether the right to free speech is outweighed by the threat to public safety and the likelihood of disorder in a city which is proud of its multi-racial heritage.

The Stirrer

3 August 2009

Woman who intimidated Asian mother was BNP member despite councillor's denial

When a woman convicted of intimidating an Asian mother was branded a ‘BNP mum’ by the media, Councillor Paul Golding made a video vigorously claiming she had never been a member of his party. However, News Shopper has discovered she was registered as a member of the British National Party - under a different name.

The Daily Mirror said Gravesend resident Helen Forster was a member of the BNP after she was found guilty of intimidating her Asian neighbour in May. In response, Paul Golding, councillor for the St Mary’s ward of Swanley, made a video in which he claimed the reports were “outrageous lies”.

The video [above] was posted on the BNP website and YouTube. In the video, Cllr Golding said Forster "is not a member of the British National Party and she never has been". He added: “I contacted our membership department and asked them to check all of our records going back many years and she is not on there whatsoever. I spoke to Andy McBride, the south east regional organiser, and he said that no-one in the whole region had ever heard of her.”

Cllr Golding went to Forster’s home in Park Place and interviewed her on her doorstep, and she too called the reports “lies”. The 32-year-old said: “I was not a paid member, I was just a graphic designer. I produced leaflets.”

However, a woman named Helen Colclough, of the same address as Helen Forster, was registered as a member and activist for the BNP. Last week a Kent Police spokeswoman confirmed that Helen Forster and Helen Colclough are, in fact, the same person.

The video was made as part of Cllr Golding’s Operation Fightback campaign, which aims to expose so-called media lies. But when he was asked to explain why his video on Forster contained a lie, he said he could not comment. After conferring with the BNP legal team, he told us: “I was told data protection stroke litigation rules mean I cannot say anything about the story.”

Following his election in February, Cllr Golding’s political career was brought into question when details of a family member’s criminal past were exposed. His brother Jamie has been convicted of stealing cars and committing more than 150 burglaries in the Bexley and Kent area.

Last Monday (July 27), Forster pleaded guilty to common assault and perverting the course of justice at Maidstone Crown Court. She has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on September 7. The charges relate to an incident in Fort Gardens, Gravesend, on May 23. In May she was given a 10-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of intimidating her neighbour Meherjan Miah, a 30-year-old mother of four. The court heard Forster had encouraged children to throw eggs and fire an air gun at Mrs Miah’s home.

News Shopper

Far right launch campaign of violence and intimidation against opponents

Aryan Martyrs' Brigade issues death threat against anti-fascism activist Weyman Bennett, while student attacked after BNP protest

Far-right activists have launched a campaign of intimidation and violence against political opponents including a series of death threats and physical attacks.

Hardline fascists are targeting students and leading anti-racism activists who campaigned against the British National party in June's European elections.

A group calling itself the Aryan Martyrs' Brigade has issued threats including a "death warrant" sent to Weyman Bennett, the joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, stating he will be killed before the end of the year "for crimes against all loyal white patriots and British nationalists".

The threat, which the police are investigating and has a picture of Bennett in cross hairs, states: "We know exactly what you look like and what venues you frequent and can strike at will. The police, special branch, MI5, Searchlight cannot save you from the bullets coming your way. No matter where you are, we will get you, all we need is a lock on your mobile phone signal and you are one dead nigger."

Others have received threatening emails and at least one prominent activist was attacked after his picture appeared on an extreme rightwing website that was taken during protests against the BNP.

"There has definitely been an upsurge in attacks and intimidation since the European elections," said Bennett. "The fringe rightwing groups appeared to be on their best behaviour when the BNP were campaigning but once the election was over they seem to be trying to take their revenge on those of us who were prominent in the anti-fascist campaign."

The increase in rightwing violence comes after Scotland Yard admitted it was deploying more resources to monitor far-right extremists amid fears of a terrorist attack. Commander Shaun Sawyer told a meeting organised by the Muslim Safety Forum last month that there was a growing threat from the far right.

"I fear they will have a spectacular …they will carry out an attack that will lead to a loss of life or injury to a community somewhere," he said.

Sawyer added that more specialist officers needed to be deployed to counter the threat from far-right groups.

Bennett, who has received threats in the past, has been told by the police to take the latest death threat more seriously.

"Standing up against people like the BNP you do sometimes get verbal threats and intimidation but this appears to be more serious," he said. "I don't intend to stop organising anti-racism events or confronting the fascists in the BNP but something like this does make me think more about my personal security."

One of the people who has been assaulted in recent weeks is Gary McNally, who helped organise a Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke-on-Trent in May. After the European elections, when the BNP gained two MEPs, the 23-year-old attended a protest outside a meeting in Blackpool. Several photographs of the student appeared on the extremist Redwatch website, which is understood to be linked to the Aryan Martyrs' Brigade, alongside the slogan "Remember places, traitors' faces, they'll all pay for their crimes". A few days later McNally was attacked.

"I was about 200 yards from my house and I felt something smash against my face and I heard the words, 'You are a disgrace to your country,' and I saw a pair of shoes as I fell to the ground," he said.

McNally, a student at Staffordshire University, was taken to hospital where he was treated for cuts and bruises to his face and head.

"After I had been hit I thought I had gone blind in my left eye. The attack has left me very scared – the BNP put on this respectable front but I suppose this is the reality of what happens if you publicly stand up and disagree with them."

Simon Darby, deputy leader of the BNP, said the attacks and threats had nothing to do with the party.

"It is rather ironic that they are complaining about being attacked when they use similar tactics themselves," he added.

The Guardian

2 August 2009

BNP in a Hitler rant row

British National Party backers have been accused of launching a phone campaign of Nazi abuse against anti-fascist campaigners.

Anti-racist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) claim BNP supporters are deluging activists with sinister phone messages. They say the threatening calls have included a man growling “Heil Hitler” down the phone, a recording of Bavarian-style German marching music and a pro-BNP rant.

All the activists targeted are involved in a planned picket of the BNP’s annual Red White and Blue festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, on August 15.

The far-right party denies sympathising with Hitler’s Nazis – despite leader Nick Griffin having a conviction for inciting racial hatred by denying the Holocaust.

UAF activist “Tim” said: “I got a message saying, ‘We are the BNP’, while others contain a Hitler speech.”

BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said: “Nobody would ring people up and play that down the phone.”

Daily Star

Demonstrate against the racist and violent BNP in Liverpool on August 5th

Click on image for full-size, then right-click and
'Save As' to save it for printing and circulating

The fascist British National Party have called on their members to support Peter Tierney, BNP lowlife and local ‘businessman’, who is on trial on August 5th. Tierney is charged with assault, following an attack on an anti-fascist protester in April.

Let’s show the BNP that we won’t tolerate their racism and violence in Liverpool or anywhere else.

Tell your friends and let’s have a really big turnout on August 5th.

Stand up to fascism.
Join us on August 5th

1 August 2009

A hot August?

In February 2001 senior British National Party officers and activists from the North West gathered in Oldham for a regional conference. The local organiser greeted them with the words “welcome to Oldham, the front line of the race war”.

The words were ominous. By May Oldham was burning after racist provocations and attacks drove a des-pairing Asian community onto the streets to defend itself. Two months later Bradford was ablaze. The scenario was the same: goad and abuse people in the streets, in their homes and shops, and sooner or later they will defend themselves.

Those arrested from the local Asian community were treated harshly and with some haste. Despite the firm evidence of involvement of the BNP and other nazis, racists and football thugs, justice was dealt out to them much later. The convictions upheld what we had been saying all along: a conspiracy involving disparate sections of the far right but led mostly by known BNP activists, who had helped plan and orchestrate the “race war”.

Despite continued pronouncements from Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, about a coming “civil war” (race war), the authorities have been looking in only one direction for terrorist threats. Until last year they failed to wake up to the ample evidence of far-right efforts to set this country ablaze this summer, unchanged by the BNP’s European success.

The BNP’s declared enemies, Muslim communities, are the target. And the BNP has had a growing influence on other far-right extremists who want a war in our streets against not only Muslims but anyone of Asian origin.

Many of those responding to the call of several different groups looking for a fight with Islam are unaware of who is jerking their strings. Unless the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) intervene directly, there is a danger of serious violence spreading across the country this month and beyond.

The accompanying diagram focuses on some of the key groups and players to whom officers of the BNP are offering political and physical assistance. The BNP will not be able to wriggle off the hook, but action after the event is not good enough; prevention is needed.

Two outbreaks of violence in Luton earlier this year wrong-footed the police. The situation was not helped by the failure of the local council to ask for Home Office intervention. As a result the police have stepped up infiltration and disruption of some of the key groups.

The far right were looking for a catalyst for action and found it on 10 March as troops from the Royal Anglian Regiment, known as “The “Poachers”, were to be welcomed home from Afghanistan with a parade through the streets of Luton.

Eight members of a Muslim extremist group, already disowned by the local Muslim community and told to stay away from the Luton mosque, put on an appalling display of hatred towards the troops, calling them child killers and butchers.

It would have been no problem for the large number of police stewarding the local people who had turned out to greet the troops to arrest these fanatics for race hate offences. Instead two people ended up being assaulted by the angry crowd. Only one was one of the Islamists – a former local leader of the fanatical al-Muhajiroun group. The other victim was the former mayor of Luton, a Sikh who was there to greet the troops.

Paul Ray, a Dunstable-based Islamophobe who blogs under the name “Lionheart”, applied for local authority permission to stage a St George’s day parade but was turned down. However he had already attracted the attention of the BNP and a series of anti-Islam groups including the United British Alliance (UBA) and March for England (MFE), both of which had been visible outside the notorious Finsbury Park mosque when Abu Hamza, the terrorist-linked extremist preacher and his followers had seized control.

After Abu Hamza was expelled from the building, he would preach hate to his followers in the street every Friday, until he was imprisoned in May 2004, and the UBA and MFE would turn up to jeer. These encounters were overwhelmingly non-violent, except when the National Front (NF) turned up and were driven away by the UBA and MFE.

The UBA and MFE appeared to draw large numbers of young men including some black people and even a couple of Jewish football supporters from Surrey. Many were former soldiers and former football hooligans. They were frighten-ingly disciplined. Hundreds marched to the Regents Park mosque in that period.

While these largely overlapping groups have kept up an internet presence, it was not until the events of 10 March in Luton that they suddenly reappeared on the streets.

Denied the opportunity to heat things up in the name of St George, Ray was attracting interest from Chris Renton, a BNP activist from Weston-super-Mare, and several other BNP activists from around the country including Marlene Guest from Rotherham, whose main claim to fame is her statement in Sky TV’s BNP Wives programme that some good had come out of the Holocaust in the form of dentistry and plastic surgery.

Tom Holmes, the NF leader, called on his troops to turn out against Islam at the earliest opportunity, which came on Easter Monday, 13 April, when the police decided to stop the progress of an anti-Islam demonstration in Luton.

The police struggled with a large crowd and even the use of horses did not disperse them. They included familiar faces from the pro-nazi football crews from the time when the nazi terror group Combat 18 was active in the 1990s. Only when police reinforcements from London arrived were they able to disperse the demonstrators.

Separate from the MFE and UBA are the English and Welsh Defence League (EWDL) and Casuals United, run by the Welsh football hooligan Jeff Marsh. They all used to work together until recently when Ray turned against Dave Smeeton, leader of the MFE.

On 24 May the EWDL produced a bigger turnout with football hooligan support for a march that had been given the green light by Luton Council and the Bedfordshire Police. The result was a disgrace as Islamophobes, hooligans and fascists broke away from the local marchers and tried to storm the Muslim area of Luton. Shops and cars were damaged and 150 young Muslims prepared to fight to safeguard their homes and families. It was beginning ominously to look like the fascists were achieving their aim of a repeat of the Oldham and Bradford riots.

In the run-up to 24 May Luton mosque had been the target of an arson attack.

At this point these various groups decided to spread their message of hate to other parts of the country.

Now there were signs that police infiltration was succeeding. A call to march through central London evaporated after intelligence was passed to the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist command SO15. Then a mysterious figure called Dave Shaw called for EWDL supporters to gather at a Wetherspoon’s pub near Trafalgar Square on 27 June to go on to an activity outside the East London mosque in Whitechapel. Only a few turned up to be greeted by a large police presence and no sign of Shaw.

The EWDL began to realise it was a police sting operation and most of them decided to go drinking in Convent Garden instead. The police told the rest they could go to Whitechapel but only with a massive escort. Reports suggest that only eight to ten made it and were filmed, photographed, shoved around and told to behave on the tube journey.

The following weekend, on 4 July, the EWDL picketed a “Life under the Shari’ah” Islamic road show in Wood Green, north London, organised by the Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary, to find the police clamping down on both them and the Islamists.

On the same day the EWDL staged a voluble protest in Birmingham’s Bull Ring “against muslim extremists that interrupted a British soldier’s funeral”. Again prompt police action prevented any real trouble.

One of the nazis present was Mike Heaton, “Wigan Mike”, the violent leader of the small but crazy British Freedom Fighters, not deterred by being charged with racial hatred after his arrest outside the BNP victory rally in Blackpool in June.

The Islamophobes intend to return to Birmingham for a “march against sharia law” on 8 August. The date was fixed for before the start of the Midlands football season. Luton Town plays its first match on that day but the demonstration starts at 6pm, giving fans plenty of time to get there.

Interest in going to Birmingham may be growing. One Luton Town supporter noted that the EWDL had recently changed its booking from a 25-seat to a 52-seat bus. One nazi noted how it was the eighth day of the eighth month which, for nazis, translates as the eighth letter of the alphabet: “HH” or “Heil Hitler”.

Three whites from the extreme left in Birmingham have tried to recruit and incite Muslim teenagers to respond by taking to the streets with racially abusive language and slogans. Perhaps two political extremes are seeking confrontation in the city.

Now Martyn Page, the Hitler-saluting treasurer of the BNP’s Broxtowe group, is organising forces intent on setting the country ablaze, offering to bring in some heavy lads from his area. The target is Luton and the date is 30 August.


31 July 2009

Electoral Commission to fine BNP - again

From the Electoral Commission website, July 29th:

Regulatory Action

The British National Party and the party’s Regional Accounting Unit were both granted an extension to the deadline for submitting their statements of accounts. Both have failed to deliver their accounts within the extended deadline so the party will be fined a minimum of £500 and the accounting unit will be fined a minimum £100, this figure will increase if the accounts are more than three months late.

Peter Wardle Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission said: “Political parties play a crucial part in our democracy. But, now more than ever, voters need to be confident that party funding is transparent and that parties will comply with the law.

“While we are disappointed that the British National Party and its accounting unit have failed to submit their accounts on time, I’m glad to see that the majority of the large parties and accounting units have understood the need to ensure their accounts are submitted to us by the deadline set. Transparency about party finances is one of the key factors that can help public confidence in politics.”

In May, the Commission published the financial accounts of 281 political parties and 483 accounting units whose gross income and total expenditure were each £250,000 or less. Accounting units with income and expenditure that are both £25,000 or under are not required to submit their accounts.

The Commission has published a comparison of the parties’ gross annual income and total expenditure from 2003 to 2008. This is available on our website.

The Commission is currently reviewing all the accounts submitted. Where this review suggests that there may have been any breaches of the law we will raise this with the parties and where necessary use our regulatory powers.

Electoral Commission

Burnley BNP councillor tried to defraud insurance company

A serving Burnley councillor could face criminal charges after a civil court judge ruled he tried to defraud an insurance company.

Coun. Derek Dawson, the British National Party councillor for Gannow, made a claim against Zurich Insurance which would have initially been worth up to £30,000. The claim related to an accident in 2003 at Zurich customer Mr Stephen Hargreaves' house in Whalley, where it was alleged Coun. Dawson's severely fractured ankle was caused by a ladder being knocked onto his leg by a car driven by Mr Hargreaves.

As it was a civil trial no punishment was handed down by the court, but Zurich was granted permission to pursue Dawson and Hargreaves for Contempt of Court proceedings through the Attorney General. If successful, this will attract a criminal penalty.

But Burnley's BNP leader Coun. Sharon Wilkinson defended Coun. Dawson, calling him "an excellent councillor" and even questioned whether the judge was influenced by Dawson's "political persuasion".

During the case, which began last year before starting again this month, Deputy Circuit Judge John Morgan heard evidence at Burnley County Court, which proved the fracture was caused by Dawson falling off a ladder rather than Hargreaves' car knocking the ladder onto him.

Coun. Wilkinson said: "At the start of the case, the judge was made aware Derek was a BNP councillor. He then chose to believe the evidence of Zurich's expert engineer and not Derek's expert engineer as to how his injuries were caused. Whether the judge was influenced by Derek's political persuasion we can only speculate. Derek is an excellent councillor and I don't think this will affect his position."

But Burnley Council leader, Coun. Gordon Birtwistle called for Coun. Dawson's resignation saying: "Any councillor that attempts to commit fraud is not a fit and proper person to be a councillor."

Mr Stephen Langton, representing Hargreaves, appealed against the judge's decision, which was not granted. Mr Langton and Mr James Hurd, representing Dawson, also appealed against the imposition of court costs, but again the judge found in favour of Zurich. The costs, which are expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds, will be decided later.

Mr Simon McCann, representing Zurich, argued: "Dawson and Hargreaves colluded together to defraud Zurich. Fraudsters should not benefit."

Mr Scott Clayton, claims fraud and investigations manager for Zurich, said: "Fraud is something we take very seriously as this case shows. Unfortunately, some people will go to great lengths to secure financial gain. We challenge fraud because the costs in challenging these cases are spiralling at the expense of the honest customer."

Burnley Express

29 July 2009

La Mesa Man Convicted Of Making Threats Against Obama Online

A La Mesa man who posted racially charged comments on Yahoo about killing Barack Obama during the presidential campaign was convicted today of making threats against a major candidate for president.

Walter Bagdasarian - who was indicted in January - faces up to five years in federal prison when he is sentenced Oct. 26 by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff. The judge found Bagdasarian guilty on two counts after an hourlong bench trial in which no witnesses were presented. The 47-year-old defendant - who is free on $100,000 bail - left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.

In finding Bagdasarian guilty, Huff said the defendant's Internet postings last Oct. 22 were intended as a threat when they were written. Others who were reading Bagdasarian's writings told him that law enforcement was monitoring the Web site and one reader even told him that he was going to report him, the judge noted.

The writings were subsequently reported to the Secret Service, which tracked them to Bagdasarian's home computer, which was in his wife's name.

Bagdasarian used the computer to post threatening messages on a Yahoo Finance message board, including one that read, "He will have a 50 cal in the head soon," and 20 minutes later posted a message that read "Shoot the n-------," said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole.

The defendant also sent e-mail messages containing a link to a YouTube video depicting a vehicle exploding after being hit by a round from a firearm, the prosecutor said. "The defendant admitted that he posted the statement(s) on his home computer," Cole told the judge. "When people make threats, things happen."

During a search of the defendant's home, agents found six weapons, including a .50-caliber rifle, Cole said.

Defense attorney Ezekiel Cortez argued unsuccessfully that Bagdasarian was drunk when he posted the comments in a political discussion chat room last Oct. 22. The attorney said the original comments were made about midnight or 1 a.m., then Bagdasarian came back on the computer at 8 a.m. and said he was drunk hours earlier.


Norfolk Unity asks - if US law enforcement can take action against these racist fruitloops what's stopping the British police from doing the same?

BNP mother-of-three admits assault

A mother-of-three who has previously claimed to be a member of the British National Party (BNP) has pleaded guilty to common assault and perverting the course of justice. Helen Forster (see here and here for more info), of Park Place, Gravesend, admitted the charges at Maidstone Crown Court on July 27.

The 32-year-old, who has previously stated she has produced leaflets for the party, has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on September 7.

The two charges relate to an incident in Fort Gardens, Gravesend, on May 23. In May, Forster was given a 10-month suspended sentence at Maidstone Crown Court after being convicted of intimidation. In this case, the court had heard she had encouraged a group of children to throw eggs and fire an airgun at the home of her neighbour Meherjan Miah, who lives there with her young children.

News Shopper

28 July 2009

BNP leader extends sick pledge to capsize refugee boats

When I came face to face with BNP leader Nick Griffin on his first day at the European Parliament in Strasbourg I thought he might find urgent business elsewhere in the building.

After all, this was a rare occasion when he didn't have burly minders at his side to intimidate interviewers who dare ask awkward questions. And he would have been only too well aware of the Mirror's anti-BNP Hope not Hate campaign in the run-up to the European elections. But, in fairness to Griffin, he was only too happy to air his views on, for example, global warming ("a man-made myth").

I gave him an opportunity to back down on his comment that Europe should sink boats transporting illegal immigrants from the coast of North Africa.

"Do you regret making that statement?" I asked.

True to form Griffin replied that he only had one regret: that he did not extend his murderous scheme to vessels transporting refugees to those in the Adriatic and Atlantic. It was exactly the kind of nakedly racist response that makes it impossible to take seriously the BNP's claims to being proper politicial contenders.

I would bet that Griffin would not have considered Save The Children's recent report into the condition of youngsters trying to get from Libya into Italy. Had he done so he would notice that most of the children on the barely seaworthy boats being turned back from Europe have fled war in countries like Somalia and Eritrea.

As Fosca Nomis, spokesperson for Save the Children, said: "Many of the children on the boats from Libya had been forced to travel thousands of miles, often alone, to escape conflict and poverty in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In ten months we received over 2,000 children entitled to receive protection in Italy. They were often exhausted, hungry, severely dehydrated and terrified after the journey. Many children have recounted harrowing stories, of rape and of having to see dead family members thrown out of the boat.

"Many of the child migrants had been locked up in adult detention centres before boarding the boats for Italy, and we are afraid they may be returned there when they arrive in Libya. Conditions are notoriously bad. Human rights organisations have persistently reported allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the centres in a country which has not signed the Geneva Refugee Convention."

This is the kind of inconvenient truth that gets in the way of Griffin's deliberately controversial - but totally hollow - soundbites.


26 July 2009

BNP warning to public - "If we duff you up it's your fault"

BNP shut door on White Van Man

Gipsy-bashing bosses of the British National Party have had to ban the mobile homes and caravans of their OWN supporters from their summer festival.

They had hoped to encourage scores of far-right campers to attend next month’s Red, White and Blue jamboree in the Derbyshire village of Denby. But their plans have been scuppered by local fears about traffic, noise and disruption.

So BNP chiefs have had to warn off travelling fans. And that could hit attendance at the event as the party has been ­particularly keen to bring in ­supporters from all over Europe.

A spokesman for Amber Valley Council said: “The council’s chief executive is responding to complaints from residents after last year’s event. “They were about the number of caravans on the site giving rise to traffic and noise issues. He is asking the council to apply for an injunction to prevent caravans entering the site because of concerns that planning and caravan legislation will be breached.”

Last year, revellers clashed with anti-fascists protesting at the event. Riot police with shields and visors used batons and police dogs to control the mayhem as residents in the quiet village cowered in their homes.

BNP leader Nick Griffin, 50, has described regular travelling people as “anti-social and criminal” – although it has been revealed that he is descended from gipsies himself.

Daily Star

24 July 2009

Woeful West walloped!

Norwich North voters gave a two fingered salute to the BNP and its bogus vicar in yesterday's hard fought by-election, rewarding the racist party with a deposit-losing 2.7% of the vote - putting the "reverend" Robert West in seventh place, behind Craig Murray, the "Honest Man" candidate.

The full result from the Press Association:

Chloe Smith (C) 13,591 (39.54%, +6.29%)
Chris Ostrowski (Lab) 6,243 (18.16%, -26.70%)
April Pond (LD) 4,803 (13.97%, -2.22%)
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) 4,068 (11.83%, +9.45%)
Rupert Read (Green) 3,350 (9.74%, +7.08%)
Craig Murray (Honest) 953 (2.77%)
Robert West (BNP) 941 (2.74%)
Bill Holden (Ind) 166 (0.48%, -0.17%)
Howling Laud (Loony) 144 (0.42%)
Anne Fryatt (NOTA) 59 (0.17%)
Thomas Burridge (Libertarian) 36 (0.10%)
Peter Baggs (Ind) 23 (0.07%)

C maj 7,348 (21.37%)
16.49% swing Lab to C
Electorate 75,124; Turnout 34,377 (45.76%, -15.33%)
2005: Lab maj 5,459 (11.61%) - Turnout 47,033 (61.09%)
Gibson (Lab) 21,097 (44.86%); Tumbridge (C) 15,638 (33.25%); Whitmore (LD) 7,616 (16.19%); Holmes (Green) 1,252 (2.66%); Youles (UKIP) 1,122 (2.39%); Holden (Ind) 308 (0.65%)

The BNP realised that it was in for a drubbing in Norwich North some time ago, and though it announced its intention to stand the dodgy West in a blaze of hype that saw excitable BNP members predict their first MP, it quickly became obvious the party's campaign was firmly stuck in some very deep mud.

The party attempted to stir disharmony in the constituency by falsely claiming that African immigrants were being housed ahead of locals in Norwich, and West became a figure of ridicule as doubts about his status as a "reverend" surfaced and dogged him throughout the campaign.

Realising the party was on a hiding to nothing the BNP stopped mentioning the by-election, and national support for West was not forthcoming. Planned visits to Norwich by BNP Euro MEPs Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons were shelved so as not to taint the pair with the impending disaster, and the puny Norfolk BNP organisation was left to sink or swim on its own.

It sank - and how!

The BNP's dismal Norwich North result falls into a clear pattern that has emerged since the heat of the Parliamentary expenses scandal has abated. In three significant local by-elections the racist party has seen its share of the vote tumble.

Last week in Nuneaton Arbury and Stockingford (Warwickshire County Council) - a division the BNP thought it could win - their vote share crashed by 11% as two thirds of those who had voted for the racist party in June deserted them.

Yesterday, in Reddish North (Stockport), the BNP vote share fell by 6.6% as more than half their votes evaporated - bad news for Nick Griffin, as Stockport falls within his North West Euro-region constituency. And in Dormanstown (Redcar-Cleveland) the BNP again managed to lose more than half its votes, its share again down by 6%.

As we saw in June, despite Nick Griffin's claim that the expenses scandal and disquiet at the scale of immigration amounted to a "perfect storm" for the BNP, the party managed to increase its vote by only 1.6%, and only disgusted stay-at-home Labour voters allowed him and Andrew Brons to win their Euro seats.

Griffin's lucky success was the only thing disguising what was a disastrous election for the BNP given the circumstances in which it took place. In fact it's pretty obvious that had the expenses scandal not broken when it did then the BNP vote would have fallen, with the happy result that Griffin's alleged electoral Midas Touch would have been exposed for the self-serving fiction it always was, and that with nothing to show for all the money, time and effort expended by the BNP in June the party would now be looking at its all too fallible leader in a very different light.

The Norwich North result shows that the BNP will never achieve power in the only place that matters - Westminster - and their disastrous vote losses in recent local by-elections give a true picture of the situation viz-a-viz the electorate and the BNP. Whichever way the BNP wants to look at it that picture is one of utter electoral failure.

Finally, we should like to mention the tireless anti-fascist campaigners of HOPE not hate and other organisations, and thank them for their unstinting efforts in getting out the truth of Robert West and the BNP in Norwich North. And to our list of people to thank we'd like to add Nick Griffin MEP, for providing us with the sitting duck candidate that was the ropey "reverend" Robert West. We couldn't have chosen better ourselves.

Report by Atreus (in his living room) and Denise Garside (by email from Berchtesgaden!)

23 July 2009

Who do you think you are kidding...?

On the trail of the BNP as it makes its first, shambolic appearance at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

It is a humid July day in Strasbourg, and inside the Louise Weiss Building it feels like the start of school term. Journalists and politicians, assembled for the opening session of the European Parliament, are greeting each other like old friends outside the main debating chamber, known in a typical piece of EU jargon as the Hemicycle. Here, in the glass and pine atrium of this imposing cylindrical edifice - Britain's signature contribution to which is a garish floral carpet in the staff bar that bears more than a hint of cross-Channel ferry - you might spot Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the ex-revolutionary French Green and the closest thing the EU has to a pop star, strolling around with his entourage of admirers. Or Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), as he lambasts the rise of "the European military superpower" in front of assembled TV cameras. The atmosphere here, compared to Westminster, is open and collegiate.

Hidden away, however, at the end of a winding corridor on the top floor of an adjoining administrative block, a strange meeting is taking place. Convened by Andreas Mölzer of Austria's immigrant-hating Freedom Party, it is a meeting of the non-inscrits, the "non-attached" MEPs, from parties that have failed to make it into one of the mainstream coalitions. Aside from a few mavericks, such as Diane Dodds of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, this means the far right - including two of Britain's new crop of MEPs: Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons of the British National Party. Although the BNP is not a traditional fascist party or Nazi organisation, its constitution commits it to "restoring . . . the overwhelmingly white make-up of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948".

Earlier in the day, having travelled across France by car, Brons and Griffin had ­commanded the attention of the British press corps when they made their first, tentative appearance at the Hemicycle. Now they are due at a more furtive gathering. I remove my bright yellow press badge, slip it into my pocket, and watch an in­ternational assembly of bigots file into the conference room: Krisztina Morvai of Jobbik, the gypsy-hating Hungarian party with its own private, uniformed militia; the French Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National, along with his daughter Marine; assorted podgy members of Belgium's Flemish Interest and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, both of which are anti-Islam.

Then, ambling down the corridor, come Griffin and Brons, accompanied by Simon Darby, the BNP's press officer, Jackie Griffin (wife of Nick) and a large minder in an ill-fitting suit. Outside the conference chamber stand a few men and women wearing tourist passes and speaking in French. One of them, barely out of his teens, clutches copies of a magazine titled Identitaires. This is the in-house magazine of the French sect Bloc Identitaire, which runs a Europe-wide "news" agency called Novopress that distributes far-right propaganda. Griffin walks up and shakes his hand. "We've met before, haven't we?" he says. They make slightly awkward conversation, the young man explaining that his group has "a good relationship" with the Front National. Griffin makes a vague offer to help get the magazine translated into English - "for those of us who are interested in identity", he says, sighing. They then follow the remaining members into the conference room.

The collection of oddballs on the other side of the door is the dirty secret of the European Parliament. In the family of nations that the parliament supposedly represents, the far right has long been the foul-mouthed elderly relative. In a way, Britain has simply caught up with the rest of Europe, which has grudgingly accepted the presence of a few extremists as part of the proportional representation electoral system.

But it is also part of a more disturbing narrative. Lívia Járóka, a Hungarian MEP of Roma origin, is particularly concerned at the support gained by Jobbik, which came third in her country's elections. "[Jobbik's success] has a lot to do with the current economic crisis. People feel very unsafe, so they are ready to accept answers with no real base in fact." She feels the best way to challenge their arguments is to confront them directly. "Rather than ignore the far right, we should try to show that what they are claiming is complete empty propaganda."

Little more than a month since the BNP was elected, its victory looks decidedly hollow. Its negotiations with other far-right parties, conducted at the parliament's other base in Brussels over the past month, have failed to round up enough allies to form an official coalition of MEPs. As a result, they have been denied any extra funding beyond the standard salary (a generous £63,000) and staffing allowance, nor will they have access to any influential positions, such as committee chair or vice-president of the parliament. At most, they will be able to obtain seats on parliamentary committees and use them as a platform to make grandstanding statements - assuming anyone is still listening in six months' time. Griffin, who believes climate change is "bollocks", has already got a seat on the environment committee.

While the BNP and its closest allies remain isolated, however, there has been a wider shift to the right since their electoral successes in June, and some ultranationalist elements have managed to insinuate themselves into the mainstream. This is largely thanks to the actions of two British parties - the Conservatives and Ukip.

Under the direction of David Cameron, the Tories quit the centre-right European People's Party to form a new, Eurosceptic coalition, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). Their main partner is Poland's socially con­servative Law and Justice party, which has a well-documented record of anti-gay rhetoric. Its leader in the European Parliament, Michal Kaminski, was a member of the far-right, anti-Semitic National Revival of Poland in the late 1980s. In 2001, the US-based Anti-Defamation League accused him of having attempted to stop the commemoration of a wartime pogrom against Jewish people in the Polish town of Jedwabne. Despite this, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan this month described Kaminski on his blog for the Daily Telegraph as "a Thatcherite: a sturdy Polish patriot who is nonetheless, in outlook, almost a British Tory".

Not all of Hannan's colleagues share this view. Edward McMillan-Scott, a committed pro-­ European Tory MEP of 25 years, respected across the political divide, was expelled from the Tory group on 15 July when he stood against Kaminski in an election for vice-president of the parliament, and won. Kaminski was the ECR's official candidate for one of the EU's 12 vice-presidential posts, which are divided between the coalitions in what parliamentary insiders cheerfully refer to as a "stitch-up". EU etiquette frowns on MEPs who rock the boat by opposing members of their own coalitions.

Describing himself to me as a "loyal Tory", who spent the 1980s working in Poland with reformist groups, McMillan-Scott regrets going against the wishes of his party, but says he was compelled to do so by what he calls "the rise of respectable fascism" in Europe. He sees the alliance as a grave setback for Cameron's attempts to decontaminate the Conservative brand. "This is where the modern Conservative Party has to tread very carefully," McMillan-Scott tells me. "David Cameron has done a remarkable job in repositioning the party on most things. Its attitude to gays, or the environment, for example, has fundamentally changed. There's just the question of these links [to right-wing extremists in Europe] and one can't close one's mind to it."

To the Labour MEP Michael Cashman, this shows a lack of leadership on Cameron's part. "It suggests that Cameron is unable to control his MEPs and has shifted them where they want to go, which is further to the right."

Ukip's new friends are even more unsavoury. The party's major partner in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, formed at the beginning of this month, is Italy's Lega Nord, which, despite being part of Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition at home, wants autonomy for northern Italy and has a track record of xenophobic and anti-gay statements. Other members of the group - described by Searchlight's Europe correspondent Graeme Atkinson as a "far-right-lite" coalition - include Greek and Slovak extreme nationalists. Nikki Sinclaire, Ukip's first openly lesbian MEP, concedes to having "reservations" about her new allies. "All the parties [of Freedom and Democracy] have signed up to a statement saying they oppose all forms of discrimination. But it is difficult. I think this is going to evolve over the next couple of months."

The Freedom and Democracy coalition is in part a shrewd move to block the more extreme far-right parties, such as the BNP, from forming a coalition - Lega Nord was initially touted as a possible partner for the BNP. However, it creates a potentially more toxic alternative. Most of the British MEPs are now in alliances with extreme conservatives, with whom they will be seeking a common position on a range of issues, from equality legislation to the Convention on Human Rights.

Labour, meanwhile, faces severe problems. The party has only 13 MEPs left in the parliament - level with Ukip. The corresponding drop in funding (which is allocated according to the number of MEPs elected) has led to redundancies among auxiliary staff. Yet, despite the BNP's electoral success being largely down to a collapse in the Labour vote - even if most core Labour voters wouldn't dream of supporting the BNP, they helped it by staying away from the polls - none of the Labour MEPs I spoke to was willing to look beyond short-term causes. I suggested to Cashman, a former EastEnders actor who now represents the West Midlands, that Labour had lost the support of its working-class base. "Bullshit. The ascent of the BNP, along with the ascent of Ukip, can be traced directly to the timing of the Westminster expenses scandal," he said.

Richard Corbett, who lost his seat in Yorkshire and the Humber, where the BNP's Brons was elected, narrows it down even more. "The final nail in the coffin was Hazel Blears resigning [from the cabinet] the day before the election. It was a kick in the teeth to thousands of volunteers in the party and caused maximum damage - in our case, the difference was only a few thousand votes, so she really made that difference."

The damage now extends beyond the Labour Party. Griffin, Brons and their European allies may have failed to form an official grouping, but they share a strategy of trying to play down the overtly racist rhetoric and to influence mainstream debate. "We are treated like pariahs," Marine Le Pen tells me when I ask her what the Front National has in common with the BNP. "The traditional parties try to give us a completely warped image."

I eventually meet Griffin an hour or so after the majority of Britain's 72 MEPs have gathered for a drinks reception hosted by Glenys Kinnock, Britain's Europe minister. Griffin and Brons were pointedly not invited. The snub evidently hurt: throughout the opening week of parliament, journalists were treated to Griffin's witty riposte: "I would not want to share a drink with Glenys Kinnock. She is a political prostitute, simple as that."

Despite fears that the BNP would try to gatecrash the party, Griffin and Brons stayed away. Instead, they returned for a few hours to their "reasonably priced" hotel on the edge of the city, a low-budget dormitory surrounded by decrepit industrial buildings, where Jobbik's Krisztina Morvai also stayed.

When we meet in a busy lobby back at the parliament, the pair come across as rather shambolic. Brons, a retired teacher who used to be in the National Front, burbles along in conversation, quoting de Tocqueville and Voltaire. Griffin has a gift for the soundbite but in longer conversations tends to stare at the floor and rant circuitously. I get lost for a while during a passionate discourse on the genetic similarities of human beings to chimpanzees - and why this means we're all bound to kill each other one day unless we maintain ethnic purity. What is interesting about his language is the way in which he manipulates the fears of a declining 21st-century industrial society. He talks of shadowy "global businesspeople" (as opposed to a global financial system), presents human cultures as endangered species (rather than as products of our collective activities), and refers to the apocalyptic threat of peak oil (but not, as we know, climate change).

The suggestion that Britain has benefited from immigration is dismissed as "self-hating racism", but to avoid accusations of racism on his own part, Griffin takes cultural relativism to an extreme. He deplores the "Islamification of Brit­ain", but says Muslims are free to behave as they like "in their own countries. We don't have a right to interfere". Indeed, in his maiden speech, given during a parliamentary debate on Iran, Griffin appeared to defend President Ahmadinejad's regime, describing the pro-democracy pro­tests as a cover for "a third illegal and counterproductive attack by the west on the Muslim world".

Although the BNP's view of society makes no class distinctions, Griffin appeals to "working-class Britons" when it suits him. One word that crops up repeatedly in his analyses is "elite" - as in "the EU is an elite project which has no connection with reality". The other place I notice the use of the word that day is in an email to members of the BNP's mailing list, purporting to come from a "Chairman Nick Griffin MEP". It offers readers a chance to make a donation and become a "Gold member". "Gold members are the 'elite' of the Party," the email says. "They go that extra mile and quite rightly display their Gold membership badge with pride at Party meetings and events." The badge "also makes a superb addition to any type of clothing, whether a suit or casual".

Despite his party's commitment to British withdrawal from the EU, Griffin tries to strike a conciliatory tone. "We're going to engage here, because although we believe Britain should be withdrawn, you can't have this many people together and not come up sometimes with something that is actually a good idea."

I had had an insight the previous day into the far right's idea of what it means to "engage" at the meeting of non-inscrits, the aim of which was to nominate one group member who could speak on behalf of the others at official engagements. Waiting outside the meeting, I listened as the murmured voices became louder and more strained. Then a row erupted. It went on and on. A posh English voice filled the corridor, followed by the smoker's rasp of Marine Le Pen, and then that of her father, shouting in French. Le Pen Sr yelled at the chair of the meeting: "You are a civil servant! I am an elected representative!" The chair replied: "Monsieur, if you carry on like this then I will have to close the session."

Soon after that, the voices stopped. A group of interpreters exited from a side door, laughing. As they passed, I heard one say to the others, mockingly, "And they say dictatorship would be a bad idea . . .".

New Statesman