Fury at BNP rally in community centre

EMOTIONS ran high as more than 60 people staged a protest against the BNP as the far right party held a rally at a Cleveleys community centre.

The protesters waved placards and shouted as BNP supporters went inside the Frank Townend Centre on Beach Road last night.

Police were drafted in to prevent trouble flaring outside as around 40 people arrived at the meeting to hear from James Clayton, BNP candidate in Wyre Council's forthcoming Jubilee ward by-election.

Four people were turned away at the door.

Stephen Howard, 32, from Cleveleys, who was one of those refused entry, said: "I wanted to go in just to see what their opinions were but I'm not allowed in.

"I was born here, I pay my taxes, I have a happy family – is there any reason I shouldn't be there? It's ignorance, they are uneducated."

Mr Clayton, who spoke in the meeting about forming a Wyre branch of the BNP, said non-members were turned away because the meeting room "was at full capacity".

He said: "The meeting is for supporters we have invited. With this being a new group, people who have enquired about the party have been invited."

Local protesters were joined by members of the North West Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Lancaster Unity and unions.

Labour group leader Coun Clive Grunshaw, who last week called for Wyre Council to refuse the BNP permission to hold the rally at the council-owned centre, was also there.

He said: "They are a racist party. They should not be allowed to organise meetings in the centre."

And Jain Gawne, who runs Blackpool and Fleetwood UAF, said: "The community centre should be for the whole community, no matter what their colour or religion, and not for groups who are racist. "

But Mr Clayton defended the BNP and said they were now a legitimate political party.

He added: "The protesters have got a right to be there, but it's the same old lines and the same old hysteria. A lot of these people will not be from the local area, they will be from Manchester and Lancaster University."