Grant voices concern over riot estate rally

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The Independent Online

The main speaker at Britain's biggest black power rally to date, due to take place today, has expressed concern over plans to hold it at Broadwater Farm estate, scene of the riots in Tottenham, north London, 10 years ago. A thousand black men and women are expected to gather for today's show of political strength, timed to coincide with the Million Man March of black men in Washington in the United States.

Organised as a recruitment drive by the Nation of Islam, it will be held at the site of the Tottenham riots in which Constable Keith Blakelock was killed.

Bernie Grant, the Labour MP for Tottenham, has been persuaded by the radical black organisation to speak at the rally. But yesterday he expressed doubts about the decision to hold it in the racially sensitive area. "If it were my rally I wouldn't have gone to Broadwater Farm," he said. "Last week I was there with community leaders and we were talking about the unity of the Farm."

Speaking on yesterday's Radio 4 Sunday programme, Mr Grant said that the Nation of Islam addressed young unemployed black people, so "of course this is fertile ground for them to work on". However, he said it was "very important" that he attend what is billed as the biggest protest march since the Sixties to engage them in dialogue.

"If I don't go along, and give free range to the Nation of Islam in my constituency, then I'm not doing my job," he said.

The militant Islamic group has already sparked outrage in the US where the black leader Louis Farrakhan is said to have described ews and other ethnic groups as "bloodsuckers".

Mr Farrakhan denies charges of racism and anti-semitism, but yesterday the Board of Deputies of British ews accused the group of trying to gain "cheap political capital".

Spokesman Mike Whine condemned the decision to hold the British march on Broadwater Farm. "It's a fairly cynical manoeuvre to have it there at the site of one of the worst places of black and white violence in Britain ever," he said.

He said the board would be monitoring the rally for signs of anti-semitism. "If the British group follows the lead of the Americans we will certainly have our concerns," he added.

The Nation of Islam is led in Britain by Wayne X, 36, of London, a self- employed graphic artist, who preaches the gospel of black self-help. Supporters, wearing bow ties and dark suits can be regularly spotted around London, selling copies of the movement's newspaper, the Final Call.

Million Man March, page 17

Leading article, page 20