Racist tram rant accused Emma West attracts sympathy from BNP
FAR-RIGHT groups have hijacked the case of a woman accused of hurling racist abuse at tram passengers.
Members of the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) turned out in court this week to support Emma West.
A video of the mother-of-two apparently abusing black, Asian and Polish passengers while holding her four-year-old son has been watched by more than 11 million people since it was posted on YouTube on November 27.
Her subsequent arrest and charge for committing a racially-aggravated public order offence has led the 34-year-old's cause to be adopted by the far right.
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BNP leader Nick Griffin posted a message of support on social networking site Twitter before West appeared at Croydon Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.
After West was remanded in custody, meaning she will spend Christmas behind bars, her supporters shouted "treason" and "what a disgrace" from the public gallery.
Former Croydon Central BNP candidate Clifford Le May sat in the public gallery and nodded in approval as magistrates were shown the YouTube video, shot by another passenger using a cameraphone, called My Tram Experience.
He was joined by BNP mayoral candidate Carlos Cortiglia and Dave Clarke, who stood in Heathfield ward in the local elections last year, as well as a member of the EDL.
Her cause is also being championed on fascist websites, including neo-Nazi Stormfront, which has a dozen threads of support including one called "The Persecution of Emma West".
Britain First, which describes itself as a "patriotic political movement", has started a campaign to have the charge against her dropped.
Its members staged a protest outside HMP Bronzefield, in Ashford, where West was remanded after her first appearance in court last week.
On Tuesday the group said its "fan page" – Free Emma West – had been taken down by Facebook. Campaigns coordinator Paul Golding blamed the "spiteful" actions of their political opponents.
West, of Grenville Road, New Addington, is charged with committing a racially-aggravated public order offence on a tram travelling between Croydon and Wimbledon between October 31 and November 28.
She initially entered a plea of not guilty, but the court file was later amended to show she has yet to plead.
Dressed in a black cardigan and blue top, she wept after the video was played to a packed court.
West was remanded in custody to appear for a committal hearing at Croydon Magistrates' Court on January 6.