British neo-Nazis are gearing up to demonstrate against refugees in Dover for the third time in just over 12 months, and this round looks set to be bigger, badder and Nazi-er than ever before, with hundreds of anti-fascists set to oppose it.
The 30th of January will see the "Return to Dover" demonstration. A range of far-right groups will be attending, including an alphabet soup of leftovers from the demise of the EDL, to the National Front, as well as openly neo-Nazi groups. Meanwhile, anti-fascists will be gathering to oppose them under the banners of the Anti-Fascist Network (AFN) and Kent Against Racism. I asked an anti-fascist from London what to expect this time and he told me, "It's going to be big."
At a similar demo held there in September, I watched Nazis and anti-fascists fight each other. Bricks, metal padlocks and bangers flew through the air as the opposing sides bounced off riot cops trying to get at each other. One activist I spoke to had taken a bottle to the face. The London anti-fascist told me: "[The far-right] are definitely intent on violence. They're massively overconfident at the moment and it will probably lead to them getting undone."
You can get the gist of the anti-refugee event by reading the flyers circulated for it on Facebook, many of which look and read like a sort of fan-fic lovechild of Lord of the Rings and Mein Kampf . One, circulated by the Berkshire Infidels, describes refugees in Calais fleeing war and persecution as "the dregs of humanity" and talks about "African and Islamic fakeugees, criminals and terrorist [sic]". It then suggests that refugees are an "army of Orcs […] ready to invade our shores given the chance".
Oh no! Not Orcs!
Another flyer says, "If blood must be spilled, so be it, we will not stand by and allow our homeland to be turned into a left wing sewer of third world mongrels!"
As "Janet Quadrant" (unsurprisingly, not her real name), a spokesperson for the AFN told me, "To put it bluntly, there's no point of discussion away from explicit racism."
The rhetoric of the far-right street movement, then, has become more markedly extreme compared to when the EDL were making at least some effort to uphold a non-racist pretence.
Anti-fascists at a previous demonstration in Dover (Photo by Oscar Webb)
This demonstration also looks set to be bigger than previous efforts in Dover. "What [the far-right] saw as a success last time will encourage people that didn't make it to make sure they're at this one," the anti-fascist from London told me.
The demo in September saw flags with the SS Totenkopf and the Mein Kampf-inspired "14 words" fluttering in the wind, and this time the numbers will be swelled with even more Hitler-adherents. "A few neo-Nazi groups – National Action and National Rebirth of Poland – were banned from attending last time," said the London anti-fascist. "The former because of fallings out with the National Front, the latter because they are immigrants themselves – and those bans have been lifted for this one."
But it's not all plain sailing in Nazi-paradise. Islamophobic English "patriots" who whine about Muslamic ray-guns are likely to clash with neo-Nazis who spend their time fretting about the international Jewish conspiracy and the demise of the white race. "It also looks like more EDL groups are going to be there, which means there are going to be outright neo-Nazis on a protest with some mixed-race people, or people who have mixed-race partners," said the London anti-fascist. "We're expecting around 300 far-right and for them to be fighting among themselves."
As well as racist flyers and macho social-media trash-talk, the far-right have also been keen to intimidate their opposition.
David Francis, an anti-fascist activist, told me how he had been harassed after leaving a comment on a Facebook page organising coaches for people to attend the AFN counter-demonstration. A member of far-right group The North West Infidels screen-grabbed his post and ripped his picture from Facebook, putting it on a blog post that included the details of a bar he worked at.
"They were inundated with people putting reviews that the manager is the organiser of violent events, that it smells, that it's horrible, that the manager is a sex pest, and then threats about Dover," Francis told me. "They had to take their Facebook page down. Then we got phone calls saying things like, 'Look, if we go to Dover and we can't demonstrate we're going to come to Hastings and attack your pub.' I felt awful, because I've got colleagues picking up the phone – young people who don't know anything about this getting a load of shit from some fascist."
Then he got a couple of calls on his mobile from fascists fishing for intelligence. "First they were trying to pretend to be all friendly – 'We're just trying to find out about these [anti-fascist-organised] coaches [to Dover], mate' – but I could tell straight away that it was dubious. I was like, 'Oh, so where do you live then?' and this guy with a Lancaster accent [was] telling me he lives in Yeovil, neither of which are anywhere near Hastings."
The cold calls from racist Lancastrians took their toll, as Dave told me: "Then the dog started barking, my wife and my kid were watching the TV and the dog ran to the door and it was dark and late and the person said they were Anglian Windows. We've never had anyone from there, so we kind of had the whole family come out with bats. I thought the man from Anglian Windows was a fascist mob. I mean, I was starting to get a bit paranoid."
The episode left Dave more determined to oppose the anti-refugee demo. "I'm not a Syrian refugee living in a mainly white area or a little child who they want to target," he said. "I've [experienced a small taste] of the kind of effect they want to have on other members of the community."
Dover has become a focus for the far-right recently because it's an entry point for refugees fleeing to the UK through the Channel Tunnel. The South East Alliance previously posted a video of a vigilante border patrol, which shows members of the racist gang wearing hi-vis bibs and shining torches under lorries, looking for "illegals". Shortly after the September demonstration, a video went up on YouTube apparently showing members of the North East Infidels – another EDL splinter group – searching for immigrants under a lorry in Dover, presumably after the rally, shouting out "black bastard" and "nigger".
Janet Quadrant told me, "It's incredibly important to mobilise, because the visible links between racists marching unopposed, the normalisation of racism and actual violence against minority groups are undeniable. You let them gain confidence in our areas and the attacks – which are already on a very sharp rise – will get worse."
I tried to get a statement from the police about the demo, but they didn't get back to me.
According to the anti-fascist from London I spoke to, the anti-fascist mobilisation will be "a lot bigger than last time. Last September the majority of the people on the anti-fascist protest were from outside Kent, and very little organising was done in the county. This time local activists have taken the lead on organising through Kent Anti-Racism Network, and they've been building hard. It looks like the whole of the Kent labour movement will be out this time. Last time wasn't really a national anti-fascist mobilisation. There were some groups from outside the South East present, but only a handful and not in big numbers. This time around anti-fascists from across the country are mobilising. We're expecting more than 500 anti-fascists, maybe a lot more."
So, looks like Dover could be pretty combustible on Saturday then.