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Racist party’s TV election broadcast protested in Britain

April 25, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Demonstrators picketed BBC offices Friday to protest plans to allow a free campaign broadcast by the British National Party, which advocates deportation of non-whites.

``What they stand for is a challenge to the democratic rights of black people, lesbian and gay people, people with disabilities,″ said Jude Woodward, campaign coordinator for National Assembly Against Racism.

More than 100 people demonstrated in front of British Broadcasting Corp.’s London headquarters, chanting ``BBC, pull the plug on the BNP.″

The party, estimated to number 500-600 members, qualified for free air time simply by fielding 50 candidates for Parliament. But its chances of winning any seats in the May 1 election were slim. It has won only one election _ a seat on a local council in east London in 1993.

``Our whole purpose in getting on the television is to address 55 million Britons,″ BNP organizer Richmond Edmonds said. ``And we are attempting to build a party that will defend the interests of the British people against the sell-out of the establishment parties.″

The five-minute television broadcast, to air late Friday night, has renewed debate over the right of free speech vs. civil liberties.

Home Secretary Michael Howard said the broadcast should be allowed. ``I don’t believe that we have much to fear from these tiny minorities who hold views which the majority of people in this country wholly abhor,″ he said.

But Duke Brooks of the National Union of Students said there should be a limit to free speech rights. ``This is way beyond that limit,″ he said.

The National Assembly Against Racism also filed a lawsuit, citing a law against incitement that threatens the public order.

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