A day in Leeds (complete with typical English weather)!
– or –
Outside the court of a political show trial in twenty-first century Britain
Background – The Scene
Part 2 – Numbers – Impressions – The Rally
Part 3 – The Leaflet Incident and BBC Objectivity – Last Picture
On 16 January 2006, at Leeds Crown Court, the trial opened of BNP Chairman Nick Griffin and BNP member Mark Collett. They are charged with using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. Others see this in a wider context, of the right to free speech in Britain being itself on trial, “truth is no defence”, or at least an attempt to harass the British National Party, which is none the less a legally constituted political party with elected councillors in public office. This is a brief photographic record of the day, outside the court.
Reporting of the case proceedings were prohibited by the Judge. These reporting restrictions were however lifted for one particular incident, which is related below. During this first day’s proceedings it was not possible to gain entry to the public gallery in the courtroom: some seats were allocated to the family relatives of the defendants; most of the others were occupied by members of the press; the half-dozen or so that remained seemed to be ‘claimed’ by another group. Who the latter represented I could not speculate, but they did not appear to be supporters of the defendants.
Apologies for the poor quality of some (i.e. most) of the photographs! Many were snapped ‘on-the-hoof’, and the light was never good. Apologies also for any spelling or grammatical mistakes that have crept in, but this post was done under tight time constraints.
Leeds Combined Court Centre fronts onto Oxford Row, which has been pedestrianised for most of its length. The main entrance is about half-way up the row. On the lower or southern half of the street, an area was cordoned-off for BNP opponents. On the upper, northern part, on the opposite side from the court entrance, another area was enclosed in a similar fashion for the BNP supporters. Police maintained a presence along the street all day to ensure the public thoroughfare was kept clear and open, as well as access to the court building. The court is situated in the city centre, which is a busy area with shops and offices, galleries and theatres, colleges and hospitals close by.
The only recorded trouble during the day was the arrest by police of six or seven anti-BNP protestors for ‘public order offences’. The main stream media reported the arrests, but fail to mention who they were. If it had been the other way around, with BNP supporters arrested, I suspect the media would be more forthcoming. More analysis of the BBC website report, follows below.
View from the south, with court building on the left, BNP opponents section on the left and presently spilling out into the foreground, BNP supporters are in the centre of the picture but at the far end of the street. I only spotted the cross on the building to the right when I was downloading the images, I’m surprised it hasn’t already caused offence to someone and had to be removed!
The two groups were separated by a heavy cordon of police in their high-visibility jackets, who had everything tightly organised; the general public were able to pass through on their daily business unmolested, as they were able to do all day:
The anti-BNP enclosure:
Moving further up the street, closer towards the BNP supporters:
BNP opponents at close-quarters:
In case you didn’t spot it, I found this placard rather amusing:
Was this the best that art students could come up with? How long did it take to craft this work of art? Were they skipping class today and how often do they miss classes, I mused?
When some office staff from the court appeared at a window above the crowd (at the top of picture, but just out of shot) they were greeted with rude blasts and taunts from the BNP opponents …
… which is the object of police interest in this next picture. This is a view from the upper (northern) end of the street with the BNP supporters on the left. Notice that the attention of every single police officer has been drawn away from the BNP, down the street in the direction of the BNP opponents. A picture is worth a thousand words…
This is the wider view from the northern end. (No, the ‘Freedom’ banner isn’t posted in the police van, it belongs to some of the BNP supporters visible through the windshield!):
I have decided not to publish pictures of individual BNP supporters because I know some fear reprisals (e.g. losing their jobs) if their involvement becomes known. I’m sure more pictures can be found, however, on the BNP’s own website and elsewhere, if one is curious. Some of the banners of the BNP and their supporters (faces have been obscured):
BNP Chairman Nick Griffin speaks to his supporters as he exits court at the close of the day.