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Dover riots of January 30, 2016 - police hunt for far right and anti-fascist thugs goes on

How a peaceful protest ended in an orgy of violence

A year ago today Dover was turned into a battlefield when two bitterly opposed factions clashed on the streets.

Some of the ugliest moments were when the two sides hurled missiles at each other at either end of Effingham Street and protesters invaded Dover Discovery Centre.

Crown Court Judge Adele Williams, who has viewed hours of CCTV footage when later sentencing some of those involved, summed up: “It was clear both sides were spoiling for a fight that day.”

Police holding back far right at the Dover race demonsrations, January 30, just before violence erupted.
Police holding back far right at the Dover race demonsrations, January 30, just before violence erupted.

Saturday, January 30, 2016 was when far right groups, including the National Front, led by the South East Alliance, marched from Dover Priory Station for a rally at the Dover Eastern Docks roundabout.

It was countered by an earlier rally at Market Square led by Kent Network Against Racism and Dover Stand up to Racism.

The demo’s prominent speakers included South East England Green MEP Keith Taylor, Labour Shadow Cabinet member Diane Abbott and the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Wilmott.

The contention was over immigration and Dover was a key focal point for both sides as a gateway to Britain and the town became a centre of protest for the fourth time in a year.

But it was also where lorries came in from Calais, some with illegal immigrants from the notorious Jungle camp hiding themselves inside.

A particular complaint by the South East Alliance was about lorry drivers being attacked by migrants trying to break into their vehicles.

The sinister masked men at the anti-racism rally just before the riots erupted.
The sinister masked men at the anti-racism rally just before the riots erupted.

Each speaker at the rally voiced defence of refugees wanting to come to Britain but the gathering had the sinister presence of young men and women wearing hoods and masks.

Without warning this group, joined by a number of unmasked protesters, broke away from the rally and the square was emptied from 350 people to 20.

They marched up Cannon Street and Biggin Street setting off coloured smoke canisters on the way and chanting slogans such as “Nazi scum off our streets”.

Police here had lost control as officers were outnumbered by the crowd sweeping past them and heading towards the railway station where the far right were arriving and kettled in by officers.

It is now believed that the anti-fascists' plan was to block the march route.

Officers did regain control at Folkestone Road as, joined by reinforcements, they firmly kept the left wing and far right hundreds of yards apart.

VIDEO: National Front marches through Dover

A stand-off took place as the left wing chanted slogans such as “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” as they could see the far right’s flags held high up in the distance.

But members of the far right broke away by invading the Dover College grounds and positioned themselves at the Effingham Crescent end of Effingham Street.

From there they began to hurl missiles and the left threw objects from the Folkestone Road end including a bottle of what looked like urine.

Effingham Street became a battleground with bricks, stones and bottles flying through the air.

The violence spilled further onto Folkestone Road by the Alma hostel where protesters swamped the BP petrol station forecourt.

"Anyone who plans on visiting Kent with the intention of committing violent offences should be aware they are not welcome here" - Chief Constable Alan Pughsley

The two sides were now separated by a wall of police vans but at times rival rioters had come close enough to each other to exchange punches.

The fighting in Folkestone Road was stopped mainly by the police separating left wing protesters, kettling them with their vans.

The far right were then left free to march onto the Eastern Docks heavily guarded by police.

But sporadic outbreaks of violence took place in Priory Hill, Durham Hill and throughout the town centre.

The final terrifying scene was when rioters broke into the Dover Discovery Centre during a pantomime performance of Sleeping Beauty.

A court case later heard that right-wingers had run through the building to confront left-wingers.

Actors bravely carried on performing despite the terrifying chaos.

Shops and pubs in the town centre had to close for up to an hour while rioting was at its worst.

Six people were hurt that day, nine were arrested in the town and 20 weapons were confiscated. The bill to the taxpayer was more than £250,000.

In the aftermath Dover MP Charlie Elphicke insisted that the two demonstrations should never have been allowed to happen at the same time and place.

Right wing demonstrators at a previous event in Dover. Picture: Alan Langley
Right wing demonstrators at a previous event in Dover. Picture: Alan Langley

He also accused the police of losing control saying front line officers were “lions led by donkeys”.

He said the fault was with operational managers.

More than 400 officers had been there and Kent Police insisted that they had a legal duty to allow peaceful protest. They said that those who broke the law were dealt with in an appropriate manner.

The follow-up confrontation between the two factions, on April 2, was completely different.
Police tightly surrounded the far right marchers as they went through the town and kept away their enemies.

The only time the two sides met was when the far right marched trough Townwall Street.

The left were kept behind a wall of police vans and, despite exchanges of insults, only one brick was thrown.

Violence had been prevented now by a stifling police presence.

The third such event of 2016, on April 23, fizzled out with low turnouts and the next, on May 28, was also free of violence.

Police and protesters at Dover, January 30 last year.
Police and protesters at Dover, January 30 last year.

Chase for rioting yobs goes on

Police are still hunting down thugs behind the rioting.

And so far a total 45 people have been sentenced with another 17 charged and due to go through their court cases.

Prison sentences totalling 63 years, or nearly 23,000 days, have been dished out to thugs behind the Dover riots.

Eighty arrests had already been made by last November.

Kent Police say that other suspects remain under investigation by a dedicated team of officers and staff set up following the violence.

Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said: "We are dedicated to putting the public first, which is why officers and staff have left no stone unturned in identifying those responsible for bringing such violence to Dover.

"We have a legal obligation to facilitate peaceful protest but we will not tolerate disorder.

"It was the people of the town who suffered most, as they should have been able to go about their usual business.

Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley
Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley

"I hope our robust investigation has shown just how committed we are to protecting the public from harm, and how we will use every resource at our disposal to reduce the risk of such scenes being experienced anywhere in the county again.

"Our message is clear. Anyone who plans on visiting Kent with the intention of committing violent offences should be aware they are not welcome here and that we will seek to prosecute anyone who breaks the law.

Specially-trained public order officers, police dogs and patrols from other forces were drafted in for the operation on the day.

Those offenders sentenced so far had been charged with a range of offences including violent disorder, affray, assault, and possession of an offensive weapon.

The highest sentence imposed was seven years’ imprisonment for a man who admitted causing grievous bodily harm to a photographer when he attacked him with a flagpole.

Peter Atkinson, 46, of Birkenhead, Merseyside, had repeatedly struck his victim and reflected the high proportion of demonstrators who had come into Dover from outside Kent.

The Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said: "I have been very impressed with Kent Police’s dedication to bringing those responsible for last year’s disorder to justice.

"The sentences handed out so far are testament to the tireless work of the Chief Constable and his officers and staff.

"The meticulousness of the investigation, coupled with the high-visibility police patrols deployed to subsequent events in Dover, has sent a clear message to other would-be troublemakers that they are not welcome in our county."

Cllr Chris Precious, Dover Mayor in January 2016.
Cllr Chris Precious, Dover Mayor in January 2016.

Heroes and villains of January 30

Dovorians showed themselves at their best during the havoc caused by rioters.

And Cllr Chris Precious, mayor at the time, insisted that the police did not lose control.

Cllr Precious now says: “The most heartening thing was seeing how the Dover residents helped the young, old and disabled to keep safe by helping them move away from the danger and into the businesses that offered shelter during the worst moments.

“While demonstrators and counter-demonstrators were showing themselves at their worst Dovorians showed themselves at their best.”

He added: “While there were incidents at no point did the police lose control and, as we have seen, they have meticulously tracked down and charged those who stepped away from civilised behaviour.”

Cllr Precious had started by watching the rally at Market Square and seen the large mob break away from there to head towards the far right arriving at Dover Priory.

It had since been learned that the plan was to block the far right march at Folkestone Road.

Right wing supporters gathered near Dover Priory Station, January 2016.
Right wing supporters gathered near Dover Priory Station, January 2016.

Cllr Precious said: “What could have been a potentially destructive confrontation in Cannon Street was prevented by very professional manoeuvre from the police that kept both sides separated.”

Cllr Precious then watched from outside the Golden Lion pub at the York Street roundabout.

He said: “You could see that the police were doing their best to contain the main body of marchers ready for the planned march.

“This was while having to deal with breakaway groups that had climbed the slopes towards Military Road and followed Effingham Crescent to circumvent the police and approach the roundabout from the High Street.”

Paul Watkins, leader of Dover District Council, first heard about the rioting through live television coverage.

He now says: “If the police action in pursuing rioters who broke the law has successfully deterred further violence in marches then it has been justified.

“They followed up and took the most appropriate action so that visitors and the public may have the confidence that police prosecution may deter violence in the future.

The anti-racism rally at Dover's Market Square, before the violence.
The anti-racism rally at Dover's Market Square, before the violence.

“Whether marchers are from the left or the right please don’t come to Dover and disrupt our way of life and business of the port.”

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said: “On the fateful day, I saw reports coming in from (KentOnline's sister paper) the East Kent Mercury news feed and knew immediately that action was needed.

“I went to Dover straight away to see for myself what was happening.

“Seeing these ugly scenes I knew we had to do everything we could to make sure this never happened again.”

They can run but they can't hide

Rioters, some living hundreds of miles from Dover, are being ferreted out to this day.

One of the latest suspects is Craig Nickel, of no fixed address, who was arrested on Wednesday, January 18, and charged with violent disorder.

He has been bailed to appear before Folkestone magistrates on March 1.

Other prosecuted rioters included Lee Robinson, 25, of Sheffield, who was filmed chanting “sieg heil” and throwing a cola can and another missile.

He was jailed for 32 months in October after admitting violent disorder.

Adam Owen, 25, from Anglesey, was one of those who had broken through police lines and into the grounds of Dover College to confront the left wingers.

Owen, one of the North West Infidels, was hooded and masked and had been seen throwing a missile at his enemies.

Protesters swamp the petrol station at the junction of Folkestone Road and Effingham Street, and police move in, January 30.
Protesters swamp the petrol station at the junction of Folkestone Road and Effingham Street, and police move in, January 30.

He was sent to prison for six months in September after admitting violent disorder.

Brian Stamp, 34, of Talbot Road, South Shields, was jailed for 16 months just weeks ago, on January 6.

He also hit someone with a flagpole and threw missiles.

He admitted violent disorder.

Six right wingers, including a father and son, were sentenced to a total of more than 15 years for their involvement.

Members of their group had chanted “sieg heil” and given Nazi salutes.

James Whitbread, 30, of Mooring Road, Rochester, had made salutes, thrown bricks and kicked a man’s chest.

He was convicted of violent disorder and jailed for four years.

His 22-year-old son Deaton, of the same address, was also convicted of the same offence and sentenced to three years.

A woman trade unionist was also sent to prison.

Michelle Smith, 41, from Sheppard Avenue, Liverpool, threw rocks at far right protesters and fought with a woman near the BP garage.

She was sent to jail for a year after admitting violent disorder.

Her court case in July heard that she was a £37,000-a-year official with Unite.

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