This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Today, news emerged from the UK of a one-man anti-immigrant army called Chris Gadsden, who patrols his ten-acre farm in Toddington, Bedfordshire, and rounds up any illegal immigrants he finds, sometimes taking them to the police. He claims to have collared 50 migrants in the past month alone in this way, and the Mail is calling him the "migrant catcher," which is a bit creepy. How different things are in rural Bedfordshire compared to Walworth, South London. There on Sunday, activists got in a fight with the police, knocking one officer out, all in an attempt to block a UK Border Agency (UKBA) van and save an immigrant from detention.
A few dozen people turned up on East Street market in Walworth at about 5 PM, responding to a call out on Twitter from the Anti Raids Network. UKBA had by this time already snatched their target—a man from one of the shops—and detained him in their van. People blockaded the vehicle, which was parked on a small side street, and began climbing onto it, putting trash dumpsters and their bikes in front of it, letting the air out of its tires, and pelting it with fruit and eggs from the market up the road.
Police reinforcements including a dog unit and three vans full of Territorial Support Group (TSG)—riot cops—in full body armor were called in. They stomped down the road like Stormtroopers and the dogs were brought out almost immediately.
The cops and dogs were pretty intimidating, but people weren't afraid to shout at them and do a bit of jostling. Still, the police managed to push people away from in front of the UKBA bus, clearing a path.
Once the UKBA van had gotten away, the crowd's anger turned to the police—traffic cones, glass bottles, and even bricks were hurled at them and their dogs.
Sensing the mood—which I guess is fairly hard to miss when people are throwing bricks at your head—the cops tried to make a quick exit, but people blocked their vans. They moved on foot for about 500 meters, getting more traffic cones and bottles hurled at them and trash dumpsters pushed at them.
I saw one TSG officer get hit in the back of the neck by a traffic cone and had to be helped into a police van by his colleagues. Police later confirmed that he was KO'd but didn't need hospital treatment. "A police dog was also hurt and was treated at the scene," said a police spokesperson. Eventually the police got into a wide enough street and were able to drive off.
As they slowly retreated down the street, chants of "fascist pigs," "scum," and "who killed Mark Duggan?" followed the TSG, while a homemade sound system blasted out dance music.
The police arrested a guy who got in their way "on suspicion of violent disorder, assault on police, criminal damage, and animal cruelty." There was a protest outside Walworth police station through the night calling for his release. Activists believe he's facing trial today.
The crowd grew throughout the protest as people came from surrounding streets to see what was going on. By the end there were probably at least a hundred people involved.
I spoke to an activist who said they'd witnessed another UKBA raid in Walworth on Friday. "They're targeting Walworth. But seeing this reaction today, they're not going to try it again. The police and UKBA had a really tough time," the activist—who didn't want to be named—said. "The aim is to make these immigration removals as difficult for them as possible, discouraging further raids. This was a major public order situation and it's really difficult for the police."
Once the police had left, everyone began tidying up the road—moving trash dumpsters, traffic cones, and plastic barriers back to where they found them. Then everyone had a bit of a dance.
As one-man army Chris Gadsden marches around his farm, hunting for more failed asylum seekers to turn over to the authorities, I guess it's only fair that immigrants have an army of concerned citizens on their side, too.
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