The Times by Fiona Hamilton | Sunday, 16 August 2009 | Click here for original article
Right-wing European activists have addressed the British National Party’s annual gathering despite protests by anti-fascists that blockaded the event and resulted in 19 arrests in the Derbyshire countryside.
Last night Roberto Fiore, the leader of the Italian far-right party Forza Nuova and a friend of the BNP leader Nick Griffin, spoke to several hundred people at the Red, White and Blue Festival about the “threat” to Europe from Islamic extremism.
Mr Fiore, who once said he was happy to be described as a neo-fascist, was sentenced in 1985 to 10 years prison in Italy, in his absence, for being a member of the political wing of the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, a fascist terror group.
The group’s armed wing was implicated in the Bologna bombing of 1980, which killed 85 people. Mr Fiore’s jail term was eventually “timed out” under Italy's statute of limitation laws, and he was able to return to his homeland in April 1999.
Mr Fiore was joined at the BNP gathering last night by Marc Abramson, a councillor for a nationalist Swedish political party. Mr Abramson told The Times that he would be speaking about the need for a “total stop” to immigration as it was out of control in Europe.
Mr Griffin, an MEP in the North West, is scheduled to address the gathering this afternoon.
Yesterday police arrested 19 anti-fascist protesters during a demonstration outside the event, near Denby.
More than 1,000 protesters from the group Unite Against Fascism and trade unions gathered to express their anger at the BNP’s presence. About 100 protesters successfully blockaded the road for more than an hour, delaying the arrival of some BNP supporters.
A statement on the UAF website today said: “Unite Against Fascism is aware of around a dozen anti-fascists arrested on the day, mostly those involved in occupying road junctions.
“We believe that such tactics of non-violent direct action are a legitimate response to the BNP’s racist thuggery and we do not believe anyone should be arrested for such actions.”
The police operation, which included a helicopter and several hundred officers, is estimated to have cost about £500,000.
Denby and nearby Codnor, where several shops closed, were disrupted for most of the day as roads were closed and streets blockaded.
Residents said that they were fed up with the disturbance from the festival, which has been held in their village for the past three years.
Some blamed the protesters but others said that the presence of the BNP had besmirched the village’s reputation nationally. Many were fearful of speaking out against the party, claiming there would be “retribution” as they had been threatened by members in the past.
John Lumsden, a resident who lives a few houses away from the field where the rally takes place, told The Times: “The bottom line is that no one wants them here. This is a little community where everybody is friendly and we don’t agree with their values.
“But not only that, this shatters the peace of the place. The event is far too big and it is simply an inappropriate site.” Mr Griffin toldThe Times that the BNP event was a family festival and supporters merely wanted to be left to themselves.
He said: “We don’t create any havoc at all. No-one would even know we were here if it weren’t for the far Left trying to use this as a cynical recruiting bid to try and get ethnic minorities on side. They are going to cost the taxpayer a lot of money.”
A spokesman for Searchlight, the anti-fascist group, said that Mr Fiore’s presence “says all that anyone needs to know about the modern BNP”.