report by rs21, pictures by Steve Eason
There were ugly scenes in Dover last Saturday as around 150-200 Nazis tried to march through the town and were confronted by 400 or so antifascists.
The antifascists managed to obstruct the planned route of the Nazi march, but police responded by kettling counter demonstrators and ferrying the fascists around them.
Around 70 Nazis made it to their rally at a roundabout near the port, where they listened to racist speeches. But the majority spent their time marauding around town, launching violent attacks on anti-Nazi protesters and, occasionally, each other.
Counter demonstrators had gathered at Dover’s market square earlier that day at a rally organised by Kent Anti-Racism Network, a group of local activists involved in refugee solidarity and anti-fascist campaigning.
As the anti-racist rally drew to a close, demonstrators pushed past a police cordon and moved en masse towards the train station where the Nazis were arriving – with the aim of blocking the fascist march.
But police boxed the anti-racists in with vans and a group of fascists came out of the side streets to attack them. Some Nazis threw masonry and missiles into the kettles, while others directly charged at the counter demo and had to be fought off.
Antifascists then returned to the market square and repelled several attacks by around 60 fascists. Other Nazis marched around Dover openly throwing “sieg heil” salutes and harassing members of the public and reporters.
Some 200 antifascist protesters from London on five coaches were detained by police at a Maidstone service station. The protesters had earlier been attacked by a coachload of Nazis that had turned up at the same service station.
The fascists smashed the windows one of the protesters’ coaches, and daubed a swastika in blood on another. Police told one group of anti-fascists that they had discovered a “cache of weapons” on the Nazi coach.
Antifascists were generally in good spirits afterwards, happy that they had outnumbered the Nazis and obstructed their plans. But many warned that they had witnessed unprecedented levels of thuggery and racism from the fascists.
The Nazis were drawn from a variety of smaller hardcore groups, including the National Front, South East Alliance and North West Infidels. They were boasting that they would attract 500 to Dover and will be disappointed with their actual turnout.
Most of them were older but there were some younger faces who had been drawn in to Nazi politics by attending EDL marches a few years ago. Violence against the left – and not just ethnic minorities – has also become an integral part of their political identity.
The events at Dover suggest that we are witnessing the rise of a small but significant hardcore fascist street movement in Britain, with links to the wider European far right, and which uses the refugee crisis as its key mobilising tool.
It is clear that the police cannot be relied on to respond adequately: their knee-jerk instinct is to “facilitate” fascist marches while treating anti-fascists as “trouble makers” – despite confiscating hammers, knives and knuckledusters from the Nazis.
The wider atmosphere of racism in society against refugees and Muslims is fuelling the growth of this movement. David Cameron’s recent “bunch of migrants” comment in parliament gives a green light to those who want turn their racist bigotry into racist violence.
But the openly Nazi nature of this new strain of fascism makes it unpopular, even among those who buy into anti-migrant scare stories. Their movement is a small one, and this gives anti-fascists the opportunity to crush it at birth.
Kent Anti-Racist Network should be commended for drawing together a wide coalition in support of its counter demo. Credit should also go to Anti Fascist Network for mobilising large numbers of anti-fascists, and to the refugee solidarity groups who brought their supporters to Dover.
The anti-Muslim group Pegida UK, set up by former EDL boss Tommy Robinson, plans to demonstrate in Birmingham this Saturday 6 February. And North West Infidels wants to descend on Manchester on Saturday 27 February.
Several demonstrators at Dover commented that the dynamics on the day would have been very different if antifascist side had outnumbered the Nazis by four to one or five to one rather than by two to one.
We have a window of opportunity to build a movement with the size and breadth to defeat this embryonic fascist movement. Socialists, trade unionists, anti-racists and the wider left can and should seize that chance.
• Several rs21 activists contributed to this report – thanks to all who helped