Living in fear of fire-bombers

17th September 2004 at 01:00
Leeds teachers targeted by a fascist website reveal the nightmare of an arson attack on their car. William Stewart reports

Two teachers are living in fear of violent attacks from fascist thugs after their car was attacked by arsonists.

Sally Kincaid and Steve Johnston received death threats after personal details, including the name of their six-year-old daughter, were posted on the far-right "Redwatch" website.

Their names, address, Mr Johnston's mobile telephone number and the details of his car, including the registration number, appear on the site.

The couple, both Leeds secondary teachers, this week spoke of their delight at the Trades Union Congress's decision to press the Government to close down the site, which contains a hit list of anti-fascist campaigners.

The site is headed "Remember places, traitors' faces, they'll all pay for their crimes" and links to the website of Combat 18, a violent far-right group.

Mr Johnston's name was posted on Redwatch after he stood for the Socialist Alliance in the last general election. The telephone death threats followed later.

"It was horrid, nasty, threatening, bullying stuff," said Ms Kincaid, an ICT teacher. "But after our car was bombed it became much more sinister."

She was marking school reports at home at 10.30pm when a neighbour told her their car was on fire. Thugs had used a lump hammer to smash a window, poured petrol in and set it alight.

A West Yorkshire police spokesman confirmed the fire had been treated as arson.

Mr Johnston, a history teacher, said: "I felt real anger and fear because if people are mad enough to do that to a car they might be mad enough to petrol-bomb a house, which could lead to people dying."

Police installed panic alarms in the couple's house and advised them not to attend any demonstrations after the attack in March 2003. To date no one has been arrested.

Steve Silver, editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said teachers were disproportionately represented on Redwatch. They were more likely to be active locally and were at risk of having their details passed on by pupils with far-right sympathies.

Martin Powell-Davies, the Lewisham National Union of Teachers' secretary who ran for the NUT leadership earlier this year, is among the other teachers featured on Redwatch.

He said: "The site is clearly there to try to harass and frighten people who are standing up for what the trade union movement believes in.

"It won't stop me carrying on in that role but its intention is to intimidate people and I support the TUC's stand against it."

Chris Wilson, an executive member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, proposed the TUC motion on Tuesday. He said the site was an "affront to democracy".

He later said that schools and colleges should think carefully about what information they displayed about staff on their websites.

Ms Kincaid and Mr Johnston are members of Unite Against Fascism.

"It still is a bit nerve-wracking," said Ms Kincaid. "You sometimes think 'What if they come back?'

"We were absolutely petrified. But you either run away and say, 'Yes you have won,' or you go public and say 'This is the true face of fascism'.

They tried to scare us and it hasn't worked."

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