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THE LESSONS OF ROCHDALE

VANGUARD Editorial, May/June 1989 edition

SATURDAY 22nd APRIL, 1989 is a day which will live long in the memory of many National Front members. The repercussions of the day will continue to be felt for many months to come, and if the political lessons can be learnt by British Nationalists it may eventually be seen as marking a turning point for Nationalism.

So what happened on April the 22nd, and why is it significant? A full report on the day's events can be found in May's edition of The FLAG; a brief summary will suffice here.

On that day the National Front had planned to hold its annual St George's Day March and Rally. The event would have taken place in Rochdale, with the political theme 'No Moslem Wars on Britain's Shores'. On the Friday evening, with less than eighteen hours before the March was scheduled to start, Ian Anderson, Chairman of the National Front and one of the main organisers of the March, was informed by the police that they had obtained a ban on the March, under the terms of the Public Order Act - an Act of Parliament designed primarily to curb the freedom of political 'dissidents'.

This ban hardly came as a surprise. The conference suite of a top hotel on the outskirts of Rochdale had been hired well in advance of the day, for an indoor rally. Such a rally is not covered by the terms of the Public Order Act, and the police have no authority to prevent it taking place, or to stop people from attending it.

And then came Saturday - Lancashire police's Day of Shame. Coaches and mini-buses carrying National Front members to Rochdale were stopped by police on the outskirts of town, and their occupants threatened with arrest unless they turned back. A contingent of Leeds NF members and supporters, on arriving at Rochdale BR Station, were similarly seized by the police, and forced onto a train back to Leeds. None of these police actions were done with any legal right or backing.

In Rochdale itself local youths, sympathetic to the National Front, were persistently harassed, and kept 'on the move' by the police. In one instance the police entered a public house in the centre of town and arrested the landlord for 'serving the NF'. During this arrest the landlord's wife was truncheoned unconscious.

Needless to say the police were rather more circumspect in their dealings with Asian and Red counter-demonstrators, who were allowed to rampage through the centre of town for much of the day, despite getting involved in numerous skirmishes with local youths.

RALLY HELD

On the day sixty National Front members managed to get to the rally - no mean feat considering that to get there they had to get past a police cordon, and then find the rally site, the police having stopped the stewards (who were to have directed people from the advertised rendezvous point to the rally hall) from attending also.

As well as hearing speeches by NF leaders those who made it to the rally also heard a guest speaker, Lady Jane Birdwood, from the pressure group English Solidarity. Further political demonstrations on the theme 'No Moslem Wars on Britain's Shores' were then held. It was very noticeable that the public response to the National Front's street activities were, as one long-standing member put it, 'the best since the mid-seventies'.

To summarise the days events: firstly although this magazine does not believe in gratuitous police-bashing for the sake of it, the behaviour of the police in Rochdale, both to members of the National Front and the public was appalling, and is - not surprisingly - currently being investigated, by the Police Complaints Authority. Secondly the behaviour of those National Front members who made it to the rally was noteworthy for its determination and resourcefulness - qualities that bode well for the future.

There are many important lessons to be learnt from Rochdale; by the National Front, by the police; and by many other interested parties.

LESSONS FOR NF

The first lesson is a simple, practical one - be prepared! the party will have to be more adept at 'guerilla tactics', thus for example people travelling to an event must avoid the obvious roads in, and use back roads instead.

Secondly it has now become clear just how quickly public opinions can shift on racial matters, to our advantage. Public attitudes to Asian immigration in Rochdale seem to have undergone a quantum leap in the right direction over the last few months.

It would seem that the Establishment can keep the public quiescent on the subject of coloured immigration only for as long as they can maintain the fiction that all Afro-Asians are pitiful, persecuted people, victims of prejudice etc, etc, and thus ensure that pity and guilt are the only emotions felt by the ordinary Brit in the street towards our uninvited guests. As soon as the British stop feeling pity and guilt, as soon as they start to view Asians, Negroes etc, in a different light, then the brake on their natural racialist instincts is released, and their attitudes can change overnight.

The Salman Rushdie affair, in conjunction with the rise of militant Islam personified by the Ayatollah Khomenei, has altered the public's attitude towards Asian immigrants. The sight of hordes of Asians streaming through the streets of many of our major cities calling for blood has affected peoples' thinking: it's difficult to look upon a baying bloodthirsty mob as pitiable 'victims of prejudice'.

Instead the Islamic presence is increasingly being seen by ordinary Britons for what it is - a threat to Britain, and the arrogantly murderous activities of anti-Rushdie activists has served only to raise the hackles of the ordinary public.

In the early Seventies it was the actions of one follower of Islam, General Idi Amin, which gave a major, if unintentional boost to the NF; now, ironically, it is the actions of a renegade ex-Muslim, Salman Rushdie, which are, again unintentionally, doing so again.

Joe Public does have a breaking point. Many Nationalists in the Eighties have become unnecessarily depressed by the belief that the British will put up with any imposition and indignity that multi-racialists can heap upon them, without ever fighting back. The signs are clearer now than they have been in years that this is not the case.

LESSONS FOR THE POLICE

If the lessons of Rochdale were all positive from the NF's point of view the same can not be said for the police.

First, it is now clear that the police tactics of grovelling to the immigrant communities is going to end in dismal failure. The police still do not have the confidence and support of the immigrants; all their actions are likely to do is to alienate the host British community, as is clearly the case, amongst large sections of the Whites in Rochdale. It may well be true, as top cops are fond of claiming, that it is very difficult for the police to do their normal jobs effectively without the support of the 'minority' community, but if they lose the support of the majority, British community their job won't be difficult - it will be impossible!

Police actions on the day merely added to Public Order problems, rather than stopping them. Had the St George's Day Rally taken place unhindered then it would have been extremely easy to police; all the members and supporters of the NF would have been gathered in one place, on the outskirts of town. Instead the police were left trying to keep tabs on large numbers of groups of disgruntled Nationalists spread all over the town. When will the police realise that they will be better off co-operating with the National Front, rather than harassing it?

Police organisation on the day was useless. Despite the heavy-handed attempts to harass NF members going to the Rally it was dear that the police didn't have a clue where in Rochdale the rally was being held until well after it was over: had those present wanted to cause a public order problem they could easily have done so.

Perhaps the failings of the police should come as no surprise - for too long now top cops have been promoted for holding 'correct' political views, rather than for their policing abilities. Too many cops seem to think their duty isn't to uphold the law, but to uphold the Government - it's time for change.

OTHER LESSONS

Civil libertarians, especially those in the National Council for Civil Liberties, should also learn the lessons of Rochdale. Five years ago the police practised a similarly heavy handed way in stopping NF members from attending a lawful political activity in Sheffield, in January 1984.

At that time the NF informed the NCCL of the details of this outrageous incident - the first time the police in Britain had used force to prevent people attending a lawful political activity. We warned the NCCL that a dangerous precedent was being set; unfortunately the NCCL, thanks to the liberal/left bias of many of its leading members, took only a limited interest in the case.

Yet what happened then? Only a few months later the police repeated their tactics of stopping private individuals on the public highway, even though those individuals had committed no offence, and forced them to return home under threat of arrest. This time it was the miners who were the victims.

Now, in Rochdale another precedent has been set: the police in Rochdale arbitrarily decided that private individuals should not be allowed to attend a meeting held in private property. Doubtless many individuals involved in the civil liberties movement hold personal political views very different to those of the NF, that is their unquestioned right, but if they are genuine in their views on civil liberties they must take note of events in Rochdale. This time who knows who will be next?

Lastly, and by no means leastly, the Asians in Britain, should take note of the events in Rochdale, and the White response to their activities. It may not be what they want, when they take to the streets in violent protests, but militant Islamics are sure as hell putting repatriation back on the political agenda!