Bunny La Roche reports:
Over a hundred people gathered on a beautiful sunny day in Margate on May 17 to protest against Nigel Farage. The UKIP leader was speaking at a public meeting at the Winter Gardens. The successful, popular mobilisation was marred by the presence of a number of fascist groups, who turned up to ‘protect’ Farage: Britain First, an offshoot of the British National Party, the National Front and the English Defence League.
Anti-Farage protesters arrived early in the hope of catching a glimpse of ‘Nasty Little Nigel’ before the meeting began. However, he and other leading UKIP members, including Janice Atkinson, scuttled into the venue via a back entrance. Protesters of all ages came from across east Kent, including Labour and Green Party members, as well as Unite Community, Roma, anti-cuts, trade union and animal rights activists. Almost all of the protesters with tickets to the meeting were turned away at the door.
The protest was organised via social media and street stalls. The Facebook page Keep UKIP out of East Kent gathered momentum quickly, and stalls set up in Ramsgate were hugely successful. Anti–UKIP street campaigners were initially anxious about the response they would receive, given apparently widespread support for UKIP in Thanet. Last May, they managed to secure seven out of eight County Council seats in the election. There is also a strong possibility that Farage will stand for election in 2015 in South Thanet.
However, as soon as the stall was set up, people came over to get flyers and leave their contact details. The positive response was overwhelming. Activists deliberately chose to engage with UKIP voters, instead of avoiding or alienating them. Despite not persuading anyone to vote against them, it was interesting to note that the most common question posed by potential UKIP voters was: “what’s the alternative?” Many UKIP supporters accepted leaflets from campaigners.
Activists across Kent reported similar experiences. There has been a popular backlash against UKIP’s racist scaremongering, reaching beyond the far left. Across the country, UKIP billboards have been defaced or taken down. The website Destroyed UKIP Billboards has been hugely popular.
This has fed into popular resistance against them. UKIP have been forced to cancel both their Freepost address and Freephone number after people used both to run up huge bills for them. Stand up to UKIP has sent over a hundred thousand leaflets out and organised stalls across the country.
In Ashford, activists from the Kent People’s Assembly confronted leading UKIP member Janice Atkinson, who responded to their questions with foul-mouthed abuse. The campaigners took a photograph of this incident, which has seen over 90,000 shares on social media and has been widely reported in the press. Every time UKIP members have been caught being openly bigoted, it has been widely reported and shared.
Wherever Farage has appeared, popular protests have been organised against him. What should have been his crowning achievement at the public meeting in Margate, which local UKIP members claimed would be the ‘biggest meeting in the country’, turned out to be underwhelming and was strongly opposed.
There is no doubt that the serious work anti-racists across east Kent have done helped to make sure that the meeting was not as successful as UKIP had hoped. From now on, Farage should expect short shrift whenever he appears here.