Protests mount as BBC invites anti-immigration leader

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Anti-racist campaigners prepared to stage a demonstration outside the television studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Thursday over its controversial plans to host the leader of an anti-immigration party on a popular current affairs show.

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Trade unions, Nazi holocaust survivors, politicians, anti-apartheid veterans and students were set to join campaigners against racism and fascism at the BBC’s West London television studios to protest the inclusion of British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin on the panel of Question Time.

Protests are also planned for BBC centres around Britain, said organisers who argue that the BNP’s anti-immigration stance is racist and it should not be given air-time by the BBC – a corporation that is funded by tax-payers, including immigrants.

The planned protest, which is expected to be heavily policed, follows violence in London, Birmingham and other cities in recent months during clashes between racist and anti-racist groups.

“More airtime for the BNP will lead to more racist attacks on the streets,” said Unite Against Fascism (UAF), chaired by former London Mayor and Labour MP Ken Livingstone.

A spokesman for UAF, one of the groups leading Thursday’s protest action, said: “There’s always a danger that right-wing thugs will turn up although we have not been told to expect them.

“There will be flashpoints if we are directly confronted,” he added.

Coming just months before general elections due by June 3, 2010, the BBC decision has been slammed by a large number of Britons, with cabinet minister Peter Hain, a veteran of the South African anti-apartheid movement, saying it risked being taken to court.

Hain argues that the BNP is not a “lawfully constituted political party” as it does not admit non-Whites as members, and that the BBC’s decision risks prejudicing an ongoing court case on the matter.

According to reports Wednesday, the BBC will not allow journalists to watch the filming of the programme but will let BNP supporters join the audience – a decision that was slammed by Hain.

“This is the BBC seal of approval on the BNP – a racist and fascist party – as a respectable party. It stinks,” said Hain, the Secretary for Wales.