A campaign led by Berkshire Anti-Fascists has resulted in getting Britain First’s national conference cancelled in the week that they were hoping to celebrate their publicity-hungry intervention in the Rochester by-election.
Intelligence gathering by Berkshire Anti-Fascists discovered that the wannabe paramilitaries and notorious racists were due to hold their national conference (and disco!) at the The New Owlsmoor Community Centre in Sandhurst, which is owned by Bracknell Forest Council. This was the same venue they used last year.
A public campaign to get the council to cancel the booking was supported by huge numbers of people, both locally and from across the country.
In the course of this campaign it was revealed why Britain First has been able to use this venue – the guy responsible for running the venue is John Blewitt – a Britain First member! And furthermore, one of the trustees of the venue – Andrew McBride – is a past south east regional organiser for the BNP and currently another Britain First member.
Initially complaints to the council were met with text-book far-right rhetoric:
But eventually, after holding out for a day or two, when newspapers started taking a interest, the council caved in to pressure and Cllr Paul Bettison, the Leader of Bracknell Forest Council, issued a statement saying: “We have had confirmation from the Owlsmoor Community Association committee that a meeting scheduled on Saturday, November 22, will not be taking place.” The council’s full statement is here.
Berkshire Anti-Fascists said: “Bracknell Forest Council has a responsibility to keep its residents safe. We will not allow a platform for racism and hatred in our county or anywhere else, we stand in solidarity against fascist groups and will continue to do so. Our thanks go to the hundreds of locals who have organised and campaigned against the decision to allow Britain First a platform in Bracknell.”
Despite this victory questions still remain over Bracknell Forest Council. The council claims it did not know the venue was booked by Britain First – however, previously the council had explicitly acknowledged that the booking was for Britain First. It appears that the council only reluctantly pulled the booking after large amounts of outraged people contacted them. Previously they declared the whole matter was out of their hands as they didn’t run the venue. Also they appear to be happy to employ racists and homophobes to run publicly funded venues for them. Are Muslims, or members of any of the other groups hated by Britain First (gay people, trans* people, immigrants of any sort etc) going to be happy to use this venue or have their taxes pay for it? How does this fit with the council’s equal opportunities policy?
Britain First are still claiming their conference is going ahead in a back-up venue. So keep your ears to the ground and let’s see if we can track it down. Check out Berkshire Anti-Fascists (Facebook | Twitter) for any further info and updates.