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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Campaigners march against BNP
Anti-Nazi league march
Shelina Begum (right) was told to 'go home' by racists
Anti-racism campaigners have staged a demonstration in Burnley where the far-right British National Party won three seats in local council elections.

The BNP gained three seats in the Lancashire town in Thursday's poll, after contesting 68 of 6,000 seats nationwide.

About 40 members of the Anti-Nazi League descended on the town centre chanting: "Stop the Nazis," and holding banners welcoming asylum seekers.

When one BNP councillor was elected on the Isle of Dogs, racist attacks rose by 300%

Claire Dissington, Anti-Nazi League

They were closely watched by large numbers of police, including mounted officers and an armoured van.

A year ago the town was the scene of race riots and there were fears Saturday's protest could raise tensions again.

But the march was reasonably peaceful as campaigners called on Burnley's communities to unite against racism and "smash the BNP".

'Veneer of respectability'

Shelina Begum, 22, from Rochdale, said she joined the protest after being spat at by racists.

Miss Begum said: "I was working in Oldham and people there told me 'Go home'.

"Working in Oldham I was afraid of the BNP getting in so I thought if there was anything I could do to help in Burnley then I should."

Other protests were being held in Cardiff, Walthamstow and East Ham in London.

Claire Dissington, from the ANL, explained why the group was protesting.

"It's sent a wave of horror across Britain that there are now far-right councillors in Britain.

"When they achieve council seats they begin to put on a veneer of respectability."

She said that although the BNP had won only three seats, its danger was significant.

"When one BNP councillor was elected on the Isle of Dogs [Derek Beackon in 1993], racist attacks rose by 300%."

BNP 'triumph'

BNP leader Nick Griffin called the Burnley result a "triumph".

He denied the party was exploiting racial tension in northern towns, but said the BNP's objective remained "an all white Britain".

Most political commentators have dismissed the BNP's gains as "limited", saying the party had made little impact nationwide.

Across the country, 94% of voters backed one of the three main parties, with the performance of each remaining substantially unchanged across the board on last year.

Local Election results

After 174 of 174 councils

Party Total Net
Lab 63 -8
Con 42 9
LibDem 15 2
Ind 0 0
Oth 2 2
NOC 52 -5
Party Total Net
Lab 2402 -339
Con 2005 237
LibDem 1263 45
Ind 136 -79
Oth 101 2
Local Election results
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See also:

04 May 02 | UK Politics
Papers dismiss BNP's 'limited' win
03 May 02 | UK Politics
Mallon becomes Robomayor
03 May 02 | UK Politics
Burnley takes stock of BNP victories
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