Anti-racists rally in Dover (Picture: Socialist Worker)

Anti-fascists confronted Nazi protesters in Dover, Kent, on Saturday in defence of refugees. The counter-protest was organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Kent Anti-Racist Network.

It was in opposition to a far right demonstration hoping to target refugees housed in a Dover hotel. Nazi groups including Patriotic Alternative seized on the hotel and the case of an alleged rape of a school pupil in a Dover school. They wanted to build a protest that could attack refugees.

Anti-Nazis gathered for a rally in Dover’s Market Square at 12 noon. They were made up of local anti-racist activists, bolstered by supporters from nearby towns and London. Some then marched to occupy the road outside a Travelodge, near the sea front, where the racists hoped to gather that afternoon. 

The ragtag band of Nazis, mostly from outside Dover, gathered in a pub on the outskirts of the town centre and marched to the Travelodge. They chanted, “Send them back,” and, “Stop the invasion”—echoing the words of Tory home secretary Suella Braverman. One of them shouted, “Jews will not replace us,” to smiles from others.

The two groups of protesters—roughly 90 on each side—confronted each other across a line of police. After a short while the Nazis returned to the pub and the anti-racists dispersed into the town.

Though neither side decisively outnumbered the other, the Nazi march wasn’t the breakthrough they hoped for—having attracted no local support. The fact that they didn’t get their way shows it was right to organise a counter-protest to confront them head on. 

Even before the demonstration, some of its organisers got scared and tried to cancel it fearing opposition. Earlier this week the Active patriot UK Facebook page declared the demo was cancelled. It flagged up bad press from the local news site Kent Live, and warned the counter-protest would make the day a “shitshow”. Other Nazis said they’d turn up anyway. 

The Nazis’ protest was the latest in a series of racist demonstrations around Britain targeting refugees who have been housed in hotels. Nazis and racists want to capitalise on Tory scapegoating of refugees, with Braverman branding the arrival of migrants an “invasion.”

Jill, who works in Dover, joined the counter-protest. She told Socialist Worker, “It’s really important to come out and show the far right that there are lots and lots of people who have compassion for refugees.

“Dover feels very vulnerable—there’s lots of deprivation. In some ways it feels the perfect place for the right to aggravate against refugees.”

Imna, who also works in Dover, added, “I hope this demonstration gives confidence to people in other towns. If we can do this in Dover we can do it anywhere.”

Speakers at the anti-racist rally said anti-refugee racism could divide working class unity. Elaine, a UCU union member, said the racism was “a poison that is coming in just as working class people are beginning to organise.” Leah Levane from Jewish Voice for Labour added, “The fight against racism and the fight against austerity are part of the same fight.”

Others pointed the finger of blame at the Tories, whose anti-refugee scapegoating gives Nazis the opportunity to organise. 

Simon Hester from Hastings trades council said, “In Hastings we have a Tory MP who put on Facebook a picture outside a hotel that’s housing refugees. He named the hotel and said it’s an outrage that taxpayers’ money is being used to house refugees. This is absolute incitement.”

And Weyman Bennett, SUTR national co-convenor, said, “The government is opening the door to that form of racism. We have to stand in unity to say that won’t happen.”

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