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Dover brought to standstill as far-right and anti-fascist groups stage demos

Published 02/04/2016

A line of police officers in front of a group of far-right protesters in Dover, Kent, who are protesting against the arrival of immigrants; the Kent Anti-Racism Network have also organised a counter-demonstration. PA
A line of police officers in front of a group of far-right protesters in Dover, Kent, who are protesting against the arrival of immigrants; the Kent Anti-Racism Network have also organised a counter-demonstration. PA
A heavy police presence outside Dover Priory railway station in Kent, as they aim to prevent the repeat of violence between far-right groups protesting against the arrival of immigrants and the Kent Anti-Racism Network, who have organised a counter-demonstration. PA
Police are raising the number of officers at a protest to prevent a repeat of violence between far-right and anti-fascist groups in January

Dover was brought to a standstill by a large-scale police operation as far-right and anti-fascist groups both held protests.

Roads were closed and lined by police as demonstrators marched separate routes through the port town in Kent.

Police officers march with a group of far-right protesters in Dover, Kent, who are protesting against the arrival of immigrants; the Kent Anti-Racism Network have also organised a counter-demonstration. PA
Police officers march with a group of far-right protesters in Dover, Kent, who are protesting against the arrival of immigrants; the Kent Anti-Racism Network have also organised a counter-demonstration. PA

Thirteen people were arrested in total during the event, including one man arrested on suspicion of possession of offensive weapons and another on suspicion of theft of a police baseball cap.

Three men were arrested in connection with a protest on January 30, when violent clashes erupted between the two groups.

The march, which began shortly after 1pm, was disrupted as anti-fascist protesters refused to assemble in a designated area near Marine Parade, leading to eight arrests.

Police formed a human barrier to cordon the group off on the seafront and as far-right demonstrators marched past, tense words were exchanged over officers.

An EU flag was burnt by far-right protesters as they congregated by the port, where they spoke in favour of Brexit and against immigration.

Anti-fascist protesters sang "refugees are welcome here" as they stood surrounded by police, countering earlier chants of "no more refugees".

Some roads were closed to allow protesters to make their way towards Dover's eastern docks, causing long traffic tailbacks.

Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said the disruption to local people caused by the demonstrators was "too high a price to pay".


He said: "Here today in Dover, ferries are waiting at the port being disrupted. The port has been disrupted. The haulage industry has been disrupted.

"Our nation's economy has been disrupted, as well as the town of Dover and our local economy."

He added: "It's too high a price to pay and it's not acceptable that people can come here, demonstrate, and cause this level of disruption to people going about their daily lives.

Police officers talk with a man at Dover Priory station in Dover, Kent, a head of a protest by far-right groups protesting against the arrival of immigrants and the Kent Anti-Racism Network, who have organised a counter-demonstration. PA
Police officers talk with a man at Dover Priory station in Dover, Kent, a head of a protest by far-right groups protesting against the arrival of immigrants and the Kent Anti-Racism Network, who have organised a counter-demonstration. PA

"That's why it's time that, as constituency MP for Dover, I think we need to look again at the law governing these sorts of situations and make it proportional to the rights of people going about their daily business."

But Mr Elphicke said police handling of Saturday's march had been "effective".

He said: "The police's main job today was to keep both sides separate, both sides apart, and they have been effective in that.

"Last time when we had disruption I was highly critical of the police.

"This time I have to say they have planned it well. They have come ready and prepared with horses, with dogs and with the full equipment load that they need to ensure they keep the peace."

Neil Jerome, temporary assistant chief constable for Kent Police, said the disruption was "unavoidable".

He said: "As I made clear in the run-up to the events today, the right to protest inevitably causes disruption to the community. That is largely unavoidable - we do all we can to minimise that disruption.

"I fully appreciate the frustration caused when a road is closed. This decision is not made lightly and only after consulting with Highways England and Kent County Council.

"It was necessary to allow us to facilitate the protest and ensure the safety of both motorists and protesters."

Anti-fascist protester Siobhan Murphy, 40, from Deal, Kent, described the group's message as "peaceful".

She said: "We gathered in the market square and that was peaceful.

"There was a convoy of three vehicles going to Calais with aid and so we decorated the vehicles with messages and accompanied the vans to the port."

She added: "It's just to say no to hate. Make a stand, in a sense."

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