In January this year street protest movement / political party Britain First went on a so-called "Christian Patrol" in Bury Park Luton. They documented their visit in a highly edited video (deliberately not linked here) which showed both their own provocative action, particularly the abuse if a young woman and her four children, and the response of local Muslims. Their visit was condemned by the churches of Luton, and as a result by churches around the nation. I documented the coverage of it in a blog post here.
On that occasion Britain First activists wore their uniform fleeces and beanie hats, both bearing their insignia. Three weeks after the demonstration Bedfordshire Police arrested BF leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen on the charge of 'Wearing uniform with political objective.' Paul Golding And Deputy Jayda Fransen Arrested Following Luton ‘Christian Patrol’
Police bail banned them from Luton as well as requiring them to sleep at a set address and report every Saturday. In recent weeks that reporting has been required every day. Last week Golding appealed his bail conditions, and appeared in court in Luton yesterday, 29th July. It appears his solicitor told the court he intended to plead guilty, and in the interests of saving court time with a bail hearing this week and case heard next it was decided to proceed direct to a plea of guilty alnd sentencing. Golding subsequently pleaded guilty, and was fined a total of £580 - paid up front. Speaking to me outside the court, as well as on video from just outside nearby Harpenden, Golding claimed he was the victor as he now had no bail to keep, and no case hanging over him. Perhaps more importantly he threatened to be back in Luton now he had no restrictions. He said to me, "Tell your friends in Bury Park we'll be back next weekend." And on video he said to the police "Let the fun and games begin."
Britain First Deputy Leader Jayda Fransen still has her case to come next week, with the same charge and a more serious charge. Unlike Golding she has not kept her bail conditions me failing to sign on (after tearing up her papers on video), so she is unlikely to be so leniently treated even if she pleads guilty.
Probably the most significant thing about Golding's case was the district judge's statement prior to announcement of sentence. He noted that the legislation that forbids political parties to wear uniform, the Public Order Act of 1936 , emerges at a time when sensitive issues threatened stability of society. The Jewish people, especially in the East End of London were threatened by the rise of Nazi Germany, and similar forces sought to bring influence here. He compared the situation with the diversity of Bury Park, that a large number of people there are of Muslim religion, and the presence there of Britain First in uniform was gong to appear threatening. He told Golding that as leader of this organisation he had responsibility to consider this impact.. He said, "Your activity there was not benign. A significant no of you were in uniform. Your action upset locals. That was predictable."
Golding's solicitor had sought in his statement to the judge to claim that their purpose in Bury Park was normal political campaigning. So normal political parties parade in uniform through a diverse area with many Muslims carrying crosses, calling themselves a Christian Patrol?
I see the judges words as a pretty damning statement for Britain First. It says their style of activity looking for all the world like paramilitaries is not acceptable political behaviour. A political party in uniform, campaigning against Muslims, going into majority Muslim areas intimidating and abusing people, claiming they are exercising their legitimate free speech is not acceptable in our nation. That is exactly what the British Union of Fascists did in the mid 1930's and why their actions were limillted. And it needs to remain illegal now.