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Dover braces for repeat of history as far right protesters prepare to descend on the town, amid heated tensions over Channel crossings


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Residents across Dover are bracing for what could be history repeating itself this morning, as a swarm of nationalist protesters prepare to arrive in the port town as part of an anti-migration demonstration.

Shops and pubs were forced to close in 2016 when violence erupted in the streets between anti-racism protesters and the far-right, leading to 64 convictions and jail sentences totalling 85 years.

The fires have been stoked by an increase in Channel crossings, as people seeking asylum make the perilous journey across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes to forge new lives for themselves and their families.

On Wednesday more than 400 people made their way to Kent's shores on flimsy craft, the highest number in a single day.

The Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN) has planned a 'solidarity stand' in Market Square at 11am, to show support for those seeking asylum in the UK and fleeing their war-torn home countries.

The event, dubbed 'We Stand With You', was organised following the death of Sudanese man Abdulfatah Hamdallah in August.

Joe Burman, Labour councillor for Mill Hill, Deal , was part of the anti-racism protests in on January 30, 2016.

Watch as the National Front marched through Dover in 2016

He has helped organise today's KARN stand, and hopes the nationalist protesters will keep away this time around.

He said: "These people can't be allowed to march along our streets - go back where you came from, it's as simple as that.

"There's been so much negative coverage of refugees and so much vitriol directed towards them in the press, and to some extent local people as well, but there are a lot of people out there who are quite supportive of the cause of refugee welfare.

"We want to put their voice out there and allow them to express that voice, rather than the hateful one that's being put out there by the fascist groups."

Mr Burman was part of the anti-fascist protesters in 2016
Mr Burman was part of the anti-fascist protesters in 2016

The 35-year-old is aware of a number of nationalist groups who appear to be organising to arrive in the town today, including Britain First and a far-right anti-migration YouTuber calling himself the Little Veteran.

In a recent post on the video platform, the self-appointed 'little veteran' said: "I'm asking for patriotic people to come stand all together in a convoy and do a go-slow on the 5th in Dover."

In another post, the thumbnail includes the slogans 'immigrants don't matter' and 'veteran's lives matter.'

Mr Burman said: "The irony is we've got a so-called veteran who's coming and peddling his hate in Dover but most of the veterans who fought and died in the Second World War were fighting against fascists.

"They'll be rolling in their graves."

Far right protesters in Dover in May 2016
Far right protesters in Dover in May 2016

Mr Burman also said US charity Veterans for Peace have declared their support for KARN in their stand against the nationalist protesters.

It is not known how many far-right protesters could turn up, as organisation for a demonstration appears to be coming from a number of different groups.

Dr Joe Mulhall, a senior researcher at Hope Not Hate, said to a national newspaper: "Details about the event are currently confused, with different parts of the UK far-right scene planning concurrent events.

"Some are planning for people to block the streets around the port, while other more extreme elements are likely to take a confrontational approach."

June Murphy, of Dickson Road, Tower Hamlets, has lived in Dover all her life.

The demonstrations in 2016 turned violent, prompting a police response
The demonstrations in 2016 turned violent, prompting a police response

She was at the protest in 2016 when tensions exploded into violence.

She said: "They're going to achieve nothing, and it'll just be a day out for them, that's their mentality.

"Disorganised chaos, people will just turn up and get excited by it."

The 75-year-old said she wishes the nationalist groups would think more closely about why people are seeking asylum in the UK.

She said: "You've got to think about where they came from and what sort of life they had.

"A lot of the time you go to the hospital you get a foreign nurse or doctor - so what?

Cllr Brivio hopes the town won't have a repeat of 2016 for the sake of locals. Picture: Tony Flashman
Cllr Brivio hopes the town won't have a repeat of 2016 for the sake of locals. Picture: Tony Flashman

"If they want to come over here and have a decent life, let them."

Cllr Pam Brivio (Lab), deputy leader of the opposition for Dover District Council, said: "I do share people's concerns, we don't want a repeat of 2016.

"I hate the racist message that the far right bring to the town, it's not good for Dover, the majority of whom do not support their views."

Cllr Brivio said she supports the refugee solidarity stand organised by KARN.

She added: "You need to dispel the myths that the racists bring - that this isn't an invasion, we accept far fewer migrants than our European counterparts."

"It's not good for Dover, the majority of whom do not support their views..."

Kent Police have said they have been made aware of today's demonstrations and are increasing officer presence in Dover as a result .

They expect attendees to gather in the town centre and the seafront, and said they will provide a "proportionate policing response to peaceful protest whilst not tolerating any disorder."

Chief superintendent Nigel Brookes said: "As a force, it is our responsibility to facilitate peaceful protests, however we will not tolerate violence or disorder.

"Anyone planning to visit Dover with the intention of committing offences should be aware they are not welcome here and that we will seek to prosecute anyone who breaks the law.

"We always urge organisers to work with us beforehand to ensure their actions are not undermined by anyone who may seek to attend such an event simply as an excuse to commit acts of violence and disorder.

Kent Police have said there will be an increased officer presence in the town. Stock image
Kent Police have said there will be an increased officer presence in the town. Stock image

"Whilst we respect the right to protest peacefully our aim will be to balance that right with the rights of other people in the town.

"The public should be assured that we have a great deal of experience dealing with protests and will use officers specially trained to deal with events of this nature."

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal , has expressed her dismay at people crossing the Channel in inflatable crafts over the past few weeks.

Responding to today's planned protests, she said: "People are rightly angry about the number of people breaking into Britain in small boats. It is completely unacceptable.

"But a protest in Dover in the middle of a pandemic is not a sensible or responsible thing to do. We cannot risk a second wave - protestors should stay away from Dover this weekend.

Right wing parade through Dover in 2016
Right wing parade through Dover in 2016

"Police resources are better used fighting crime than policing political demonstrations."

The clash on January 30, 2016, happened 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 rally at Market Square led by Kent Network Against Racism and Dover Stand up to Racism.

During the events, a tense stand-off took place between the anti-fascist and fascist groups, with the former chanting "say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here."

Members of the nationalist groups broke off and invaded the grounds of Dover College, rooting themselves in Effingham Street.

Things took a turn for the worse they began throwing missiles which were retaliated with objects being hurled by the anti-racist groups.

Bricks, stones and bottles flew as the groups continued to battle it out on the streets of Dover.

The ordeal ended with six people hurt, nine arrested in the town and 20 weapons confiscated.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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