Published: 11:10, 30 January 2016 |
Updated: 14:25, 31 January 2016
One person suffered a broken arm and five others were hurt as violence erupted in Dover town centre today.
Three arrests were made as police attempted to keep anti-fascist and far-right groups apart as the situation threatened to boil over.
With tensions high, hundreds of officers were drafted in, forming human lines in an effort to separate the protesters.
But the rallies turned violent at about 1pm, with pictures emerging of one man with blood pouring down his face.
Officers seized 20 weapons during the demonstration, including a lock-knife, knuckle duster, poles adapted to cause harm, pieces of wood, glass, hammers and bricks.
Rocks were thrown by protesters representing both sides.
Some set up camp at a higher vantage point off Folkestone Road, where they hurled rocks and drinks bottles filled with fluid towards the far right.
The fearful scenes caused worry from residents, including one woman who warned police that someone would be killed if it was allowed to continue.
Another resident, trying to make his way into town from the cordoned off Folkestone Road, called out to the visiting protesters: "I've lived in Dover all my life and I've never seen anything like this. This just doesn't happen in our town. Go back home. We don't want you here."
Later there was strong confrontation in the High Street and shops and pubs in the town centre have closed their doors.
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said Kent Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner had serious questions to answer following the violence.
He added: "I am shocked and saddened that people were hurt in Dover today. It was irresponsible and wrong to allow two opposing demonstrations to happen.
"The Chief Constable and Police Commissioner have serious questions to answer why these demonstrations were not banned after violence last time."
The day had started peacefully with a protest of pro-refugee groups in Market Square.
It included talks from Keith Turner, Green Party MEP, the Camden branch of Unison and Kent Anti Racism Network.
Labour's Diane Abbot, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, made a surprise visit to the protest, giving a brief talk to the crowds before hurrying off to her next appointment.
Although the protest was billed as peaceful, as time neared for the start, a group of masked anti fascists broke off from the Market Square at 12.30pm.
They headed towards the train station, where the members of South East Alliance and some National Front supporters were being contained by police.
With the anti fascists approaching, some of the far right were antagonised at being encased. Some of them pushed forward and tried to breach the police lines.
Others broke away into the grounds of Dover College but were pursued, prompting two extra police lines to be forged to separate the two sides.
At about 1.20pm, 20 minutes after the planned start, the far right began moving forward peacefully, closely herded by line of officers in riot gear to the front and sides.
Meanwhile the anti fascists were kettled in at the side of the road by officers and police vans. It prompted their chants: "The police protect the fascists, The police protect the fascists."
Others threw rocks at the right wing.
Speaking to KentOnline during the Market Square protest, Kent Anti Racism Network chairman Bridget Chapman said: "We're here today because there's been a big demonstration called by fascists.
"It's about the fourth time in a year they've had a far-right demonstration.
"The people of Dover are sick and tired of their town being used to spread a message of hate. We're here to firmly reject that message of hate.
"We want to very peacefully and responsibly say to the fascists that they are not welcome in our town.
"People want to join our ranks to give a really strong anti-racism message."
The clashes caused severe disruption in the town, with roads shut off and bus services severely affected.
Three people were arrested during the clashes - a 41-year-old man from Gillingham on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon, a 32-year-old man from Bristol on suspicion of breaching the peace and a 28-year-old man of no fixed address on suspicion of a public order offence.
The Bristol man was released without charge and the other two bailed.
Police are linking the clashes to disturbances at service stations on the M20 earlier in the day, where a further six people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder.
All have been bailed until April.
Responding to Mr Elphicke's concerns, Kent Police spokesman James Walker said: "The law places a clear obligation on public bodies, including the police, to facilitate peaceful protest.
"This is a democratic responsibility Kent Police takes seriously and follows the best traditions of British policing.
"The intelligence on today’s protests in Dover suggested that protesters wished to march and that others wished to demonstrate against the march. It is the duty of the state to facilitate both.
"Kent Police’s role was to facilitate peaceful protest and minimise disruption to the local community. Acts that stepped outside of this were dealt with in a proportionate manner in line with the law.
"Kent Police spent a significant amount of time planning and preparing for the demonstrations, and had sufficient resources on duty to keep the public safe and to respond swiftly and effectively to spontaneous disorder."
KentOnline reporter Sam Lennon, who lives in Dover, found himself in the midst of today's protests. This is his account from the scene.
"The first signs of trouble appeared when a whole section of the left wingers broke from the rally at Market Square and marched up the precinct, setting off coloured smoke canisters and chanting slogans such as Nazi scum off our street."
"These were mainly young people dressed in black and wearing masks.
"They crossed Priory Road and headed to the railway station, where the far-right were due to emerge.
"It was at Folkestone Road, at the junction with Efffingham Crescent, that they were stopped by a line of police.
"Chanting and shouting continued, especially when the flags of the far right could be seen in the distance emerging from the station.
"Shortly afterwards, missiles, bricks, stones and bottles were being thrown by both sides at either half of Effingham Crescent.
"The far-right had clearly found a way to break through as they were at the Dover College entrance end of that street and the first missiles I saw came from their side.
"But plenty were also thrown back from the left-wing side at the Folkestone Road junction where I was.
"I especially remember seeing one young man of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance throwing a missile at my end.,
"Events moved very fast but soon afterwards the confrontation was on the length of Folkestone Road by the Alma pubs, when again missiles, mostly stones, were thrown by both sides.
"They were separated by a wall of police vans.
"It was frightening because there was a risk of any one of us being hit,
"Somebody clearly was hurt as I saw splatters of blood on the garage forecourt and one man with a head bandage.
"At one stage the petrol station forecourt was totally swamped with protesters
"Police were in riot gear and by now had brought in dogs to control the mobs.
"Soon they kettled the left wingers at Folkestone Road, across the road from the garage, literally fencing them in with their vans.
"That to me was the main act of separating the warring factions, which stopped the violence.
"The far-right were now left to march on with no opponents via York Street and Townwall Street to the Eastern Docks, round about where they held their rally.
"They were escorted by a heavy police presence."
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