The Socialist Unity Network

Anti Le Pen protesters scuffle with policeAnti-fascists spoil the fun in Wickford

Tim Oxton

Shepherded by 60-odd police, about 150 protesters gathered at Wickford
railway station to await the fascists' arrival.  We came from Wickford and
surrounding area, from London, from all over Essex, and a few from further
a field.  We were of all ages, from school students to pensioners who
remembered the battle of Cable Street in 1936.  We included the local MEP,
trade unionists, Greens, Socialists, Lib-Dems, Labour, anarchists, and
people of no affiliation.

A small group of fascists hovered on the edge of the demo, no doubt awaiting their friends' arrival, but did not dare to oppose us.  A couple of trains arrived and left, and finally a handful of fascists emerged from the
station, to be greeted by our chants and shouts.  The police made them go
back inside the station.

At this point the police allowed us to start a march - but only about 100
metres along the public highway, before heading us back to the station
again.  Here the fascists had arrived with a van to take their friends to
their "fun day" out in the country.  Our arrival prevented them from leaving
until the police had made way for their vehicle.

We were not allowed to march through Wickford either, but we leafleted the
town in small groups, and afterwards anti-fascists took part in mass leafleting of Romford, Basildon, Southend as well.

So, did the BNP outmanoeuvre us?  Not really.  If they ever seriously
intended to stage a march through Wickford, they had to abandon that plan
(according to Searchlight, the police banned their march on the grounds that
it would cause trouble).  Of course they mostly went straight to their
venue, a nearby carp fishing farm, by road.  But only about 100 of them
appeared there, as you can see from their photos: (the pictures take some
time to load).  Considering the perfect weather, this turnout was
unimpressive for a rally of their supporters not just in Essex but in the
whole of the south-east.

Compared with their antics in Manchester the next day, where Nick Griffin
and Jean-Marie Le Pen did not dare to speak in public, but held a press
conference in a motorway hotel, the BNP had an easy time in Wickford.  The
sun shone on their gathering.  But it also shone on us, so we enjoyed our
day, which we can say was a qualified success.


April 2004

read previous story in the run up to the demo

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