Dover calling: antifascists get ready to defend migrants from Nazi threat

Antifascists are heading to Dover tomorrow, Saturday 30 January, to oppose an anti-migrant demo organised by various Nazi outfits. rs21 spoke to activists involved in building the counter mobilisation about their aims and hopes.

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Open Dover anti-racist demo in October last year – photo by Steve Eason

The British National Party has been smashed to pieces and English Defence League is a shadow of its former self. But that doesn’t mean the fascists have packed their bags and gone home. A variety of Nazi groups, including the National Front, are planning to march through Dover on Saturday to take advantage of the anti-immigrant climate whipped up by the government and media.

Bunny La Roche is an activist with Kent Anti-Racism Network which has been coordinating a counter protest against the fascists. She spoke to rs21 about how local far right groups are exploiting anti-migrant racism:

“Dover’s port and its close proximity to Calais are being used by both UKIP and the fascists. They try to portray Dover as an ‘open border’ for migrants and refugees. During the general election, Nigel Farage unveiled a despicable billboard with an escalator photoshopped onto the white cliffs and the slogan ‘no borders, no control’.

“The fascists have tried to make lorry drivers their cause célèbre, also claiming that the border at Dover should be closed. This has fed into the wider right wing narrative pushed by the media, by Cameron and by other politicians across Europe.”

Corbyn in Calais

This isn’t the whole picture by any means, she adds. “Around East Kent there has been fantastic solidarity for the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk. Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to the refugee camps last weekend has opened up a positive debate, especially about children who are suffering.

“But the pervasive ‘we’re full up’ rhetoric used by the fascists and UKIP and mainstream has found a willing audience amongst some. Migrants have become the scapegoats for the housing crisis, lack of jobs, privatising the NHS and cuts in services.”

This picture is echoed by Bill from the Anti Fascist Network. “There’s a polarisation in popular opinion generated by the migrant crisis across Europe,” he says. “One side has been the mass outpouring of solidarity for refugees. But the other has been a hardening xenophobic narrative from the tories and the press.

Orc obsession

“The fascists have taken the dehumanisation of migrants you see in mainstream rightwing narratives and run with it. One bizarre group even refers to migrants as ‘orcs’ from Lord of the Rings.”

This Saturday’s fascist mobilisation fits in with a wider pattern of Nazis returning to street activity and openly racist campaigning, he adds. “It’s the second demonstration in recent months called by a far right coalition to ‘support our truckers’ and ‘close the borders’.  And these demos have been growing in size and breadth.

“A harder, more ideological and violent far right is attempting to succeed the EDL, allying with explicitly Nazi groups. The EDL splinter groups are becoming increasingly antisemitic and openly Nazi themselves.

“Saturday in Dover could well be the largest explicitly racist march we have seen in this country for a long time. It’s crucial for antifascists to put a stop to this project before it gets any bigger – and Dover is the place to do this.”

Antiracists in Kent are mobilising to defend migrants and have responded to the threat from the Nazis in “a really positive way”, adds Bunny. “We’ve not seen so many people interested in coming out to oppose them for a long time.

“And Dover has a proud history of fighting and beating the fascists. In the 1990s the National Front got smashed by the Anti Nazi League. We’re hoping that we can stop them this time.”

• The 30 January counter demo in Dover has been called by Kent Anti Racism Network and is supported by a host of antiracist, antifascist and left wing groups including Anti Fascist Network, London2Calais, L’Auberge des Migrants, Unite Against Fascism and many more. For more details see the Facebook event.

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