Seventeen people were arrested and several injured following clashes between a far-right anti-immigrant demonstration and an anti-fascist counter demonstration in Dover on January 30th.
Hundreds of anti-fascist protesters went to Dover to oppose the anti-refugee demonstration that was being held in the city centre by right-wing groups. The Badger estimates that two buses of anti-fascist demonstrators went from Brighton.
Witnesses report fighting started after a group of far-right protesters broke the police lines separating the two groups. Vyara Gylsen told The Guardian that bricks and bottles were among the weapons used by protesters from both sides, until the police managed to separate them. One Brighton anti-fascist demonstrator, who was hit in the eye, told us she saw the police lines being broken. She told The Badger: “I saw the far-right throwing golf balls, whole bricks, bangers, cans of cider and glass bottles.”
After police separated the groups, they ensured that the far-right demonstrators reached a rallying point at the docks where the Guardian reports that a crowd of about 60 listened to speeches.
Kent police also reported a disturbance on the M20, junction 8 services, at approximately 10.50am GMT after nationalists and anti-fascists inadvertently stopped at the same service station. The Guardian reports that right-wingers attacked using sticks, and coaches were damaged and had swastikas smeared in blood on them.
Extra officers were put in place in the city centre intending to minimise disruption and disorder. Despite this, anti-fascists felt that fascism was allowed to leave its mark on Dover. Some protesters feel the police did not do enough to stop the far-right.
The same Brighton protester said: “The whole while the police were forming a barrier between us they never turned to face the fascists, they were told to focus on us, allowing their hate-fuelled march to go straight past us while we were kettled. The police violently pushed and grabbed at us.”
Daryl Telles fromHope Not Hate Brighton and Hove said he thought the police should have thought seriously about banning the anti-refugees rally to begin with. Despite Hope Not Hate Brighton and Hove not participating in the Dover demonstrations and Telles stating “I don’t believe the protests were a victory for anyone”, he emphasised that they would always encourage people to demonstrate against racism and fascists.
One of the fascist groups which organised the anti-refugee rally was National Action. In the action report published on their website, the group said: “On display today and in force was the sharp end of a new smarter, radical, and darker brand of nationalism.” They admitted their Nazi sympathies to The Badger and told us that their “strategy is to… promote a National Socialist counter-culture”.
Asked by The Badger if the rally was necessary, a spokesperson from National Action said: “Elections are dominated by those with connections and money – the people who can fund campaigns and have airtime in the media. This means that our alternative is to hit the streets and show our opposition to the invasion of our country by third world filth.”
They added that the far-right in Britain is progressing: “The sort of people who used to say “I’m not racist but…” were out in Dover on Saturday Sieg Heiling and displaying NS insignia. This is a positive for us because it means our pool of potential recruits is growing.”
National Action gained media attention in January as the organisers of another anti-refugee demonstration in Newcastle, where members were seen making the Nazi salute and displaying a banner bearing the words “Refugees not welcome. Hitler was Right”. No arrests were made during this demonstration.
In reference to the anti-fascist protesters, National Action told The Badger: “It is a shame to see young white men and women messed up like this, but these communists came to Dover not only to enable the rape and murder of their own people but to engage in violence.”
The Brighton anti-fascist protester we spoke to said: “Some of us spoke to locals whilst walking back to the square, explaining to children and adults alike who were obviously scared and confused, why we have to stand up to fascism.”
She added: “the media aren’t mentioning that there was also a peaceful rally that took place alongside the street battles to raise awareness of anti-fascism.”
Out of the seventeen arrested, none were from Brighton and Hove. A 53-year-old man from Crowborough in East Sussex was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder, following the incident at the M20 services, and has been released on bail until 4th April.
Police continue to review CCTV footage of the demonstrations.
In 2015, there were a number of clashes between right-wing demonstrators against immigration and anti-fascist protesters in Dover. On September 12, almost 200 people from each side participated in a demonstration through the streets of Dover. The demonstration was again violent.
Emma Cash and Freya Marshall Payne