Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Merseyside BNP show themselves up at the Crown Court

Today officially saw the beginning of Merseyside BNP "super-activist" Peter Tierney's trial for assault. Though little happened in the courtroom, the space outside was alive with protests both for and against the fascist thuggery of the BNP. This marked Merseyside BNP's first attempt at a formal protest since November 2008, and the event was nothing short of farce.

Several members of Liverpool Antifascists met at 9am, away from the court. As they gathered and chatted by the Town Hall, they were greeted by the sight of the defendant himself walking past. Suited, with his hair in a ponytail and his platted beard even longer than last time, he recognised the gathering as one of antifascists and decided to stare intently at them whilst walking past. As an attempt at intimidation, it was sub par. But for a lamppost or a banana peel, it could have been comedy gold. The gang of fascist goons he met on the other side of the road were no better composed, sticking up middle fingers, giving the "wanker" gesture, and offering no signs that they were actually over the age of twelve.

Due to the trial being moved back two days, many individual members were unable to turn up due to work commitments. However, there was a solid turnout from Liverpool Antifascists, Liverpool Students Against Racism and Fascism (LSARF), and the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism (MCARF). Notable by their absence, unfortunately, were the trade unions - though individual trade unionists did show up - and the newly formed Liverpool branch of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), the latter apparently active only in the arena of self-promotion.

Luckily, Merseyside BNP know next to nothing at all about (positive) self-promotion, and spent most of the day doing our job for us.

Without even the slightest concession to irony, a lot of the music coming from the BNP loud-hailer was Irish republican. Yes, it was St Patrick's Day, and for most people the political connotations would be harmless. But for a nationalist party which strongly supports Ulster, and a branch which had to remove the Republic of Ireland flag from its banner after being chastised on Stormfront, the ignorance of history and heritage is truly bewildering.

The chants they offered plumbed even lower depths of idiocy. Laughter was the only reasonable response to a fascist party whose activist contingent are largely unemployed shouting "get a job" at trade unionists, workers, and students. It also shows that their concern for "British workers" doesn't extend to those rendered jobless by the recession. Equally, having a recording lead a chant of "UAF is the Labour Party! Smash the UAF!" was beyond satire. The UAF are a front organisation for the Socialist Workers' Party, and their brand of anti-fascism can be said to lead people back to Labour rather than offering a clear class perspective, but to say that they actually are Labour is simple-minded ignorance.

Much the same level of stupidity was prominent in the claim that the UAF "lead Muslim protests against our homecoming British troops." Though hardly a fan of the UAF or the perspective they offer, I can quite safely say that this claim was nonsense. This aside from the fact that nobody at the protest was a member or supporter of either Labour or the UAF. And that the acronym "UAF" will have meant nothing to members of the public hearing this.

Although originally facing the fascists, antifascists quickly realised that the positioning of the two groups meant that they could turn around to face away from the Crown Court and block the BNP protesters from public view. This allowed us to display our message of "working class unity against fascism" prominently, give out leaflets warning of the anti-worker stance of the fascists, and speak to members of the public about what was going on today.

The police, wary of potential violence by the BNP mob, threatened the entire crowd of them with arrest if they moved away from their original spot. This was in line with the overall attitude towards the party during the trial, with witnesses against Tierney secorted from their home by police for their own security. Although, too often, fascism is picked up as a tool of the state against the working class, it seems that Merseyside BNP are so volatile and violent that even the authorities are wary of them. They're hardly poster boys for Nick Griffin's supposedly "reformed" and "respectable" party, which is most likely why their antics are hardly ever featured on the national website.

They did their best to fit in with that PR line today, staying where they were told and holding a largely peaceful - if moronic - protest. The best moments included one elderly fascist demanding to know, over and over, where our communist flags were. That we might not own any, or for that matter be supporters of the USSR, didn't cross his mind for a moment. He also returned to the "opposing the BNP = Labour" fallacy, by telling us that we had blood on our hands for Iraq and were responsible for sending people out there to die. As well as organising Muslim protests against those who returned, of course. I had no idea that my itinerary was so busy, frankly.

The lies have continued on Merseyside BNP's laughably incoherent and inconsistent blog, with Liverpool Organiser Peter Squire claiming that "two arrests made of the UAF for offensive language in public." No arrests were made at all on the day, and the police who were supposedly "exceptionally accommodating to Liverpool BNP today" had to turn away from the fascists to conceal fits of laughter at their antics.

At one point some anti-fascists did spot Joe Owens - whose past with Liverpool BNP is particularly violent - and Danny Davies - friend of violent skinhead Liam Pinkham and member of the openly neo-Nazi Liverpool Front - lurking around. Neither stayed long enough to have their picture taken. There was also a brief incident early on when several BNP members hurled abuse at two elderly women pushing a pram. Fortunately, no open violence broke out and - despite their bellicose demeanour - the public stayed safe from Merseyside BNP.

The trial has been ajourned, to recommence at 10am tomorrow. With the BNP wishing the following two days of court time to be "very low key with just his family and people giving defence evidence on his behalf being present," Liverpool Antifascists are keen to step up the pressure.

We will be attending the trial, displaying our banner outside the court, and giving out leaflets to warn people exactly what the BNP stand for. If you support our cause, please come and join us outside the Crown Court at 10am tomorrow.