A letter from Thanet anti-fascists.
On Saturday 12 September, the National Front, South East Alliance and other Nazi outfits numbering around 200-250 were able to march in Dover, declaring ‘Refugees Not Welcome Here’.
Around a dozen people from Thanet joined the call out by the Anti Fascist Network (AFN) to counter them. When we turned up in Pencester Gardens in Dover, we joined local Dover and Folkestone people. However, the majority of the counter protesters were from the AFN who had travelled from London, Brighton and elsewhere to counter the Nazis.
Maybe people think 200 Nazis on the streets of Dover is nothing to worry about? But, we should be worried. These anti-Muslim and anti-refugee protests by the far right have gained momentum in Dover and elsewhere. If they are not beaten back they will grow in confidence. The week before in Dover, the EDL also marched, unopposed. They’re threatening to march again.
Despite heroic resistance by the AFN and others, we were unable to stop them. At first it looked as if we’d had an early victory as we had surrounded the pub where around 50 Nazis were holed up. We were pelted with bricks, cans and fireworks, but our side held firm. However, minutes later, another group of Nazis were spotted coming from a different direction, so we had to move and mayhem broke out. It was pretty obvious to any seasoned observer that we would be unable to stop them. We were outnumbered.
For many, the violence of the Nazis was shocking. People could not believe that they were allowed to get away with pelting us with bricks. Many anti-fascists fought bravely to stop them, but many stood in utter disbelief. People wondered, rightly, why the police allowed them to get away with it and why they were still allowing them to march. The question of police tactics is perhaps a discussion for another time.
For us, the questions are how do we stop them? There is no doubt that the counter mobilisation was weakened when Stand Up To Racism and others called for a pro-refugee demonstration in London on the same day. In our opinion, this was the right move, given the groundswell of horror over the refugee crisis unfolding before our eyes. However, history should teach us that the anti-fascist mobilisation should have been supported. How could this have been achieved?
Local organisation is weak in Dover. This must be addressed urgently. There is no organised group of anti-racists and anti-fascists who were able to put a call out for help and mobilise in their area. We are now seeking to address this. But there is also another problem.
The leaders of anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations who have access to Trade Unions and the Labour Party must take a lead and hold out a fraternal hand of friendship and invite the AFN for discussions about strategies for dealing with the rising threat of the far right. To ignore AFN is perilous for all of us as they are genuine, and dedicated in stopping the far right. We need the biggest number of people to oppose them on the streets. We therefore need all sections of the anti-fascist movement to feel confident. Why can’t we have a discussion that allows both sections of the anti-fascist movement to come together and employ tactics where we all feel confident and united? This cannot be achieved without both sections of the movement coming together. We should be less interested in which section ‘won’ or who leads. Our objective should be the building of a huge, vibrant and inclusive movement with space for all.