Protesters on Cornmarket street staged a demonstration against the British National Party on Wednesday. Their actions came as former Union President Luke Tryl denied that his invitation to party leader Nick Griffin had contributed to the party’s success.
The BNP, who advocate repatriation of ethnic minority citizens, won two seats in the European parliament and three new seats in last week’s elections.
One of the activists, Ian McHendry, explained that he wanted to show that there was opposition to the party in Oxford. “We decided to come out on the streets to show that there are people opposed to this, because it can be so disheartening and depressing to see fascists elected.”
He added that his group, Oxford United Against Fascism, had been involved in the mass protests in Michaelmas 2007 against the Oxford Union’s invitation of Nick Griffin to a forum on free speech. At the time, Union president Luke Tryl was accused by many of lending the party legitimacy.
However, he denied that his actions had brought the BNP into the mainstream. “I don’t think that’s the case. It was somewhat two years ago. Besides, it has been proved that ignoring the BNP does not work. There is now a recognition that we need to take on BNP and challenge them on their views.”
He added,”The huge amount of attention they are receiving is unfortunate.”
In a speech on Thursday in which he celebrated his election MEP for North West England, Griffin said, “It is a huge victory. We have been demonised, persecuted and denied the right to hold public meetings.”
The party’s website currently displays a banner with the words “The dam has been broken”.
His party has long faced criticism over alleged racist and fascist sympathies. It first gained national prominence in 1989, when it organised violent demonstrations supporting the rights of white parents to withdraw their children from mixed-race schools.
McHendry said he believed that voters were being misled into supporting the party. “I think BNP voters are being hoodwinked. The party isn’t honest about what it stands for. It uses coded language. They’ve been telling Cowley carworkers that immigrants are to be blamed for losing their jobs, which is obviously completely untrue.”