By Anna Tatham
Durham Miners’ Association has rejected “completely false” claims that people were escorted from the Durham Miners’ Gala for flying the British flag, but have acknowledged that a group of activists from the far-right group “For Britain” were removed.
In a statement released today, the Association confirmed that the group did not receive permission to march and had intentions to disrupt proceedings and “hijack the Big meeting for their divisive, racist agenda.”
The statement comes after a video posted in ‘The North East Needs Saving from Labour’ Facebook group showed individuals being escorted by police away from the city centre and being asked to take down their flags.
The group were seen wearing For Britain rosettes and Jeff Wyatt, Deputy Leader of For Britain, was present.
In the video circulated online, marchers stated “we’re here to exercise free speech” and claimed Palestinian flags were being flown freely elsewhere at the Gala while they were prevented from flying the Union Jack.
In a statement on Facebook, the Durham Miners’ Association said the police took the decision to escort the group from the racecourse for their own safety.
They said: “The Durham Miners’ Gala is now and always has been, a celebration of trade unionism, unity and internationalism.
“We ask people not to be fooled by those who drape themselves in the British flag but who are in truth, promoting a far-right, extremist agenda.”
The far-right activist group commenced their march from Palace Green at 11:00 am on Saturday, and encouraged members to “join us at Durham as we plan to protest against Corbyn where we will not just fly our flags but also The Star’s [sic] and Stripes.”
For Britain have since uploaded a different video to their YouTube channel showing police removing individuals holding British flags at the Gala.
In the video, one policeman suggests to protesters that rioting and disorder could ensue if the flags were continued to be flown.
According to eyewitness Neil Green the police “quite reasonably” asked the group to leave.
This year’s 134th Big Meeting saw one of the biggest turnouts ever, with over 200,000 people in Durham City centre. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and MPs Dennis Skinner, Emily Thornberry and Ian Lavery were also present.
After the event, Chief Inspector Richie Allen of Durham Constabulary said: “We would like to thank everybody who attended the Gala for making it such a great day and making it run so smoothly.”
Photograph: El Bingle via Flickr