By Marcus Dysch
June 9, 2009
It was the calm before the storm.
BNP activists were standing around joking about their electoral success. Waiting for their leader to arrive in Westminster for his first major press conference since winning a seat in the European Parliament, they exuded the cocky smarm we have become familiar with.
But they weren’t laughing for long.
Ten minutes later they were scuffling with protestors in scenes more reminiscent of a football riot than something you would expect outside the Mother of all Parliaments.
Standing a few paces from Nick Griffin as he began to talk to the assembled press, I was somewhat surprised by the lack of interest from the tourists and passers-by milling around.
But the real shock was on its way round the corner.
Within two minutes of getting out of his car, Griffin was running back to it. The mass of protestors, led by the Unite Against Fascism group, appeared from nowhere
As they came nearer I wondered how the couple of policemen on College Green would hold them back. A second later I had my answer.
The mass of bald, burly bodyguards bundled Griffin towards me. An egg flew over the top, scoring a direct hit on his head. Next came a wooden stick, smashing across the back of his head with reasonable force.
However much he may smirk and laugh it off tonight on the news, I saw the fear in his one good eye as we tumbled off a little wall and he began to make his getaway.
In scenes which would have been laughable if they weren’t so violent, Griffin was forced to clamber through the protestors in order to reach his car.
One of his goons swatted protestors away with ease. Others attempted to cover their leader’s already-eggy head.
His fellow new MEP, Andrew Brons, maintained a peculiar grin. Perhaps this sort of thing was small beer to him after his days leading the National Front.
Down the road we went. Chants ranged from the standard “Nazi scum, off our streets” to the more lyrical “Black, white, Asian, Jew – we are many, they are few”. Catchy that one.
Eventually Griffin reached his car and sped away. A democratically elected MEP chased down the streets of the capital and out of town. Not very dignified and, some might say, no less than he deserves.
Many will say, perhaps rightly, that a violent response to the BNP is the wrong way to tackle them. But these could become familiar scenes.
The BNP is used to protestors accosting candidates outside town halls as they arrive for election counts. Jumping them from behind, however, in broad daylight and with remarkable force, takes things to a different level.
A tourist who got caught up in the ruck was taken away in an ambulance. It was nothing more than luck that stopped serious injuries on both sides
Judging by the build of Griffin’s ‘security’ men, they are not unfamiliar with the need to use their fists. But the protestors were no mugs either. They were ready for a fight and they did not back off.
Once things calmed down, the UAF’s Weyman Bennett fired a warning to the BNP: “Wherever you go in this country you will be welcomed like this.”
Tomorrow the far right roadshow is due in Manchester. If the protestors turn up, and repeat today’s actions, we may have to conclude that this is the start of a prolonged, violent campaign.
I doubt either side will back down easily – without a fight, if you will.
Where, and how violently, it ends, remains to be seen.