Several University of York students have allegedly been targeted and threatened by a British National Party official amidst concerns about increasing BNP activity in York.
Kate Challender, chair of anti-fascism society Unity, and Ogtay Huseyni, chair of the Islamic Society, have both alleged they were photographed and threatened by Ian Dawson, the York-based BNP National Group Support Officer, who told them their photographs would be placed on the far-right website Redwatch, which has a a history of incitement to violence. Huseyni has also alleged that Dawson told him to “get out of my f***ing country” as he distributed anti-BNP leafleting by students in Acomb on Saturday January 20. Challender said of the incident, “Whilst giving out anti-BNP leaflets in Acomb – exercising the right to freedom of speech which the BNP claim to defend – we were photographed by Dawson and told that our photos would be appearing on Redwatch. There is no place in Britain for any party that relies on tactics of intimidation.”
Huseyni said: “Being verbally abused doesn’t make you feel good, but I’m not going to get out of this country because of a few nutcases.” He added: “It’s because I’m a Muslim. If I didn’t have a beard, he wouldn’t have said anything. It’s because I’m outwardly showing my religion”. Anti-BNP campaigners have been leafleting in response to increased BNP activity in the run-up to the local council elections in May. The BNP have leafleted the whole of Hull Road, and Acomb Wards and hold a regular stall in Acomb.
BNP leaflets have called for the burqa to be banned and immigration from Muslim countries to be halted. Ben Drake, head of the York Unite Against Fascism city branch, said “I suspect they are targeting Hull Road because the mosque is nearby, but if they think people in the area have got a problem with the mosque, they are mistaken.” He added that Hull Road Ward has a large student population and that the BNP is anti-student: “They are a fascist party and as such they view students as enemies”.
YUSU Racial Equality Officers Caren Onanda and Bukky Ojo have condemned the BNP, saying “It’s obviously a threat that the BNP have been campaigning in York.” Of the comments allegedly made by Dawson to Huseyni, they said: “This type of behaviour will not be tolerated by the SU, which takes discrimination against students on any grounds very seriously.” Nouse attempted to contact Dawson, but received no response. However, BNP National Press Officer Phil Edwards said “I shouldn’t have thought he’d say that. Ian Dawson is a good lad.”
Edwards criticised student anti-BNP campaigners, saying “Most of them are brainwashed. Some people are born like that – many of them are actually alien people to Britain”. Edwards denied the BNP was a racist party, but said “Islam is a threat to Britain” and compared YUSU officials to the “totalitarian Marxists of the Soviet Union”.