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There were chaotic scenes in Wood Lane on Thursday (October 22) as hundreds of protesters descended on White City to demonstrate against the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time.

Three police officers were injured and six people were arrested during the protest, which saw local traffic grind to a halt as around 500 protesters blocked the street.

At about 5.15pm the BNP leader arrived at Television Centre but avoided the protesters by entering the building through the gate at the top of Frithville Gardens, next to Hammersmith Park.

In Wood Lane, protesters wore Hitler masks, carried banners and chanted slogans such as “Nazi scum off our streets!” and “Black and white, unite and fight, smash the BNP!”. Police said about 30 people had also broken in to BBC premises, but were swiftly led out.

Speaking outside Television Centre earlier in the day, Shepherd's Bush MP Andy Slaugher said: "The BBC have made a wrong decision. I think they know that now and they are wriggling about it but they haven't the courage to change their mind over this. But the implications for this for people like my constituents, a third of whom were born outside the UK, is very serious because this is giving respectability to Britain's leading neo-Nazi, to a fascist party which should be properly kept on the fringe of British politics and is now being put in the mainstream."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Tory peer Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne and writer and broadcaster Bonnie Greer were also on the Question Time programme panel but it was the audience members who really took the BNP leader to task, challenging him on his views.

During the recording, Griffin, who was booed at the start, rejected some of the accusations against him saying most of them were "lies": “I am not a Nazi and never have been.” “I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial,” he added. He also complained that the UK had been “invaded by foreigners”.

In the days leading up to the recording, the BBC had been under intense pressure to withdraw Griffin's invitation but the corporation insisted it had made the right decision, arguing that the BNP had won two seats at the European elections in June.

When filming was over, the BBC's Deputy Director General, Mark Byford, described the event as “scrutiny and democracy taking place”. “The programme was recorded as planned and we feel it was absolutely the right decision to go ahead with it. The due impartiality of the BBC is its central value,” he said.

Police helicopters hovered over Shepherd's Bush and White City all afternoon, only stopping in the evening after the BNP leader had left the BBC building and the protesters had dispersed.

 

October 22, 2009