30 January – The Battle for Dover

Kent Anti Racism Network (KARN) was formed in October 2015 in response to the fascist South East Alliance’s (SEA) demo on September 12 in Dover. It was at the Castle Inn pub and the car park opposite that we witnessed firsthand the violent intent of SEA; chains, bricks and bottles were thrown at us. The Anti Fascist Network (AFN) and around 40 locals put up a brave defence that day. We managed to break out from a police kettle and held our ground on the dual carriageway.

But, it was obvious to all of us that we needed a bigger mobilisation to defeat them, given that Kent police were willing to facilitate the SEA march regardless of their violence towards us and that we needed a local organisation to coordinate with local anti fascists and those from out of town.

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Around 10 of us met up to discuss setting up a local group just after the SEA demo. In October we formalised our group and came up with our name for it. Our aim was for local groups to operate under an explicit anti racist banner whilst maintaining their independence. Anyone who wanted to fight racism and fascism were welcome at our meetings, regardless of political affiliation.

We decided to hold a ‘Refugees are Welcome Here’ event on October 17 in Dover and work in conjunction with National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) who were planning a No Borders demo on the same day. 500 people came along – 250 of them locals. It was a fantastic day. When we reached the docks, KARN announced their intention to call a counter-protest on 30 January and invited all anti fascists to support the call out against SEA who planned to come back to Dover.

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It’s worth noting what an enormous task and responsibility this placed upon us. Kent has a fine tradition of beating back the fascists, but UKIP have made serious inroads into the political mainstream and the Tories hold every seat in Kent. There is a low level of struggle in all arenas here; only two functioning Trades Councils, and in many areas it’s very deprived. This has provided a fertile terrain for the Tories, UKIP and fascists to blame migrants for cuts, lack of housing and services.

Moreover, Kent is a big place, so meetings are difficult for people to attend if you’re 30 or 40 miles away. Given that the fascists favoured sites of contestation are Dover and Liverpool, we decided to concentrate our small forces in East Kent and attempt to bring people together to build a vibrant, inclusive anti racist network.

 

30 January – the Battle of Dover

There have been numerous accounts of January 30, Dover, but we felt we’d like to put our version of the day and its political consequences.

Organisation:

Once we got home after the Refugees Are Welcome here demo, we set up a facebook event page for the 30 January counter-protest. We began contacting political parties, anti fascist groups and local community organisations and trade unions asking for their support. A couple of our members contacted Brighton AFN to arrange a meeting to discuss coordinating our mobilisation.

KARN held weekly meetings to organise the day’s events and leafleted nearly every Saturday and sometimes during the week. Wherever we could, we raised the demo (at meetings, gatherings and even social occasions). We constantly argued that the more of us there were, the safer we would be.

We decided upon a rally in the Market Square where everyone could come along. This provided both a focal point and a safe space for those who wanted to show their opposition, but not necessarily confront the fascists. It also gave us a place where locals and those from out of town could gather so that we could march together in opposing the fascists at Dover Priory station.

By mid December, we had garnered support from local CLP’s, community groups and trade unions. South East Region of Unite paid for their members to get on transport. We could see announcements on social media of extra coaches being filled. Many different groups came on board, including Bromley TUC, South Thanet and Shepway Labour party, LGSM, London2 Calais, Act Up London, NCAFC, UAF, autonomous Antifa groups to name a few and of course the Anti Fascist Network This really helped to boost our confidence.

We kept our eyes on the fascists’ facebook pages and increasingly noticed threats of violence towards us. ‘Smash the Reds’ was a constant refrain. Numerous pictures of weapons they intended to bring appeared on social media. After the violence of 12 September, we knew what they meant by it. However, this made us more determined to do everything we could to make sure we outnumbered them as it was the only way to stay safe. So you can imagine how we felt, when we were told at a KARN meeting two days before the counter-protest that the local police inspector had commented “that we were all as bad as each other!”

 

On the day:

At 11am, Market Square, people began to gather for the rally. We had speakers from across the movement including Diane Abbott MP, Keith Taylor MEP, George Binnett from Camden Unison and Maya Konforti from L’Auberge des Migrants. Around 250 locals gathered. We were joined by the AFN and others. The AFN’s mobilisation was magnificent – eight coaches, plus cars and minibuses from across the country. London2Calais sent a full coach and UAF and many autonomous groups also organised transport

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KARN members were in a state of nervousness, as we were wondering how we were going to get to the Dover Priory station without being arrested or kettled. We then heard the news that 5 of our coaches had been delayed as Nazi Combat 18 and the Chelsea Headhunters had attacked our comrades at the service station in Maidstone. It was a tense situation when we realised that we would be facing the fascists with lower numbers than expected. Nevertheless, we decided we would give it our best shot.

Around 12.30, the call to move was given. Some hadn’t realised that we would be moving so swiftly, and we apologise that we didn’t let everyone who was gathered at the square know. But, to our amazement, almost everyone followed us to the station. It was a brilliant sight to see everyone marching together in a fantastic display of solidarity.

 

When we arrived at the station, we were in a jubilant mood – singing and chanting together as we realised we vastly outnumbered the fascists. When we spotted the fascists forming up to begin their march, many of us began to link arms to stop them passing. At first, it seemed we could hold them back, when suddenly a group of them appeared in Effingham Street by the petrol station and began throwing broken pavement slabs and bricks at us. These must have been stashed somewhere previously because of the sheer volume of them and the fact they came out of nowhere.

There was a moment of total mayhem. Some of us tried to find cover, others batted bricks out of harm’s way and some stopped the fascists breaking through to us. To our astonishment, Kent police did nothing – they let the fascists continue to throw bricks at us.

The police then decided they would kettle us instead. This turned us into a sitting target for the volley of hardcore. It became clear the cops would do everything in their power to facilitate the fascist march despite the violence and injuries. Regardless, our side stood firm in the face of violent provocation and state acquiescence. A couple of KARN comrades helped people escape the kettle by hoisting them up a grass bank to safety and local kids led them away  from fascist bricks raining down from above and below.

The police became desperate to contain us, but we became more determined not to give an inch. Sensing the police weren’t going to arrest them, and that we were not going to collapse in the face of their violence, the fascists felt emboldened to come out openly to attack us. The more we held our ground, the more risks they took.

Finally the police managed to get the fascists through, allowing them to openly seig-heil, carry Combat 18 and White Power flags and practice their hate speech without molestation. They continued to their designated spot at the Eastern Docks, many of them leaving the march to attack people along the route. The police also permitted them to continue their hate speeches at the Docks.

 

Aftermath:

 

For everyone who was there, it will never be forgotten. Dover made national and international press and numerous blogs, videos and articles began to appear. Local papers, particularly the Dover Express, vilified us and the Tory MP Charlie Elphicke as well as the police, accused us of being different sides of the same coin. KARN members were shell shocked for a while, as we faced a fierce political backlash. This made us slow to issue a statement defending ourselves and our comrades. We eventually put out a robust statement in response to the Dover Express’s vicious lies about us. Being slow to respond is a mistake we won’t make again!

In the days and weeks that followed news began to filter through that the police were rounding up and arresting people. It came as no surprise to us that so many fascists were arrested; 55 of them to date. This represents at least a third if not half of their hardcore members. One of them, Peter Atkinson was given 7 years for GBH with intent after a ferocious attack on a journalist which left him needing reconstructive surgery. Roy Junior Price, the right-hand man of SEAs leader Paul Pitt, and 3 other fascists will be sentenced Friday 10 June. There are many more in the pipeline.

 

Conclusion:

Fascist numbers have been reduced to mere handfuls that are willing to travel to Dover now. Many of them are fearful of the ongoing police investigation into 30 January.

On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May, Paul Pitt promised a two day weekender of ‘Pride and Passion’ with a Nazi Blood and Honour gig in Dover. They managed a get 23 of their number out on Saturday and were forced into holding their gig in Maidstone where around 30 at most attended. They didn’t even show up for Sunday.  We had anticipated this and mobilised around 60 of us on Saturday 28 May but we rightly didn’t put a call out for the Sunday.

We should never forget that holding our ground on 30 January forced the fascists into making tactical errors. Had we not been there, we would still see the same number, if not more on the streets of Dover and elsewhere. Everyone who was there can rightly claim credit for reducing their ranks. However, we cannot be complacent.
The poisonous, racist cheerleading in the EU Referendum led by the Tories and UKIP, further erosion of our services, less social housing and privatisation of our beloved NHS can help provide the political terrain for the far-right to thrive. Furthermore, the UK state has made us a possible target for a terrorist attack given its military actions in Syria, Iraq and Libya. If it happened it’s feasible it could act as a lightning rod for the far-right to coalesce into a unified force.

This means all of us must come together to fight both the Tories and UKIP’s racist agenda and oppose the fascists wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads.

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In Solidarity – No Pasaran!

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Assaulted Photographer Condemns Far Right Groups for Dover Violence

A freelance photographer who was savagely attacked during disturbances in Dover on Saturday 30 January, has condemned far-right groups for causing the violence in the town. His attacker, Peter Atkinson from Liverpool, received a sentence of seven years for Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent at Canterbury High Court on Monday 23 May.

The disturbances broke out after far right groups including the English Defence League, National Front, South East Alliance and North West Infidels attempted to march through Dover in a demonstration against immigration. The photographer was badly injured in the attack and required surgery involving plates and pins to reconstruct his elbow and arm.

The photographer said:“I welcome the sentence of  7 years handed to Peter Atkinson today. His attack on me was unprovoked, brutal and cowardly. It took place while I was going about photographing a public event. The sentence is fair and reflects his intentions and the impact of his actions on the day.

“Journalists have long been a target for far-right thugs. Abuse, threats, physical and sexual assaults against members of the press have become all too frequent. They see us as legitimate targets and believe they can abuse and attack us without consequences. They need to think again.

“I made it clear in the statement I gave to the police that I witnessed no violence until the far-right groups broke past police lines and began hurling bricks and bottles at what was a peaceful counter-protest. I hold the far-right groups who attended Dover on the 30th January fully responsible for the violence.

“Among them included supporters of the English Defence League, National Front, South East Alliance, Pie and Mash and Combat 18. These groups care nothing for the issues they protest about. They don’t give a damn about truckers but want to use them to demonise refugees. They don’t care about child sexual abuse unless they can use it to demonise Muslims. Many would even welcome a Paris style attack in London because they believe it would fit their own agenda. These groups offer nothing but hate and violence.”

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Shut down Nazi Blood and Honour gig – 28 May, Dover

This Saturday, 28 May, the sieg-hieling South East Alliance (SEA) will once again descend upon the streets of Dover demanding refugees go home and the borders should shut. It’s the third time this year.

But this time the South East Alliance‘s message – and their intentions – are far more sinister than before. Paul Prodromou (Pitt) – the self-styled leader of SEA is hosting a Nazi Blood and Honour event under the pretence of a ‘Rock Against Immigration’ gig.

All four bands on the bill for Dover are White Power bands; Redneck 28, Section 88, Gentleman Thugs and March or Die – all dedicated to fighting for a world where people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, Jews, Muslims and other minorities would cease to exist. They embrace the ideals of National Socialism like those of their hero Hitler.

This event is no ordinary piss-up with a few anti EU bands. This is a both a recruitment tool and a tentative foray for Blood and Honour to begin rebuilding their base. If they manage to pull this off, we’ll be faced with a more fanatical cadre of street fighting Nazis in the future.

If we want fewer Nazis in Dover on the 28 May, then we have to ensure that the gig doesn’t go ahead. Make no mistake, the fifty or so Nazis who have been arrested with bail conditions not to enter Dover, will be able to make their way in with no problem. We cannot rely on the state to arrest them or close down the gig should they find out where it is. That means we have to use any means necessary to stop it.

But Kent Anti Racism Network is a small, local organisation, only formed in October 2015. If local Nazis organised an event we’d be able to counter it.  But the gig is a national event hosted on Blood and Honour’s website and elsewhere. The Nazi bands and their Nazi fans will be travelling from across the UK to attend. We have to make sure we have enough people on our side to stop them.

So, when we’re told there will be no mobilisation by a London based organisation, it’s not good enough. Dover is in London’s backyard. What does it take for people to realise Dover has become one of the major focal points for the Nazis – whose raison d’etre is ‘defending the White Cliffs from the invaders?’

So, if you want to keep the Nazis from growing, if you want to make sure Blood and Honour do not get a foothold in the UK, join us on Saturday.

 

Assemble from 11am

Market Square, Dover, CT16 1NB

Facebook event here

 

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Kent Anti-Racism Network Conference – Saturday 21st May

Old Sessions House– Canterbury Christ Church College, North Holmes Road Campus, Canterbury, CT1 1QU

Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kent-anti-racism-network-conference-tickets-24453320540

 

Kent Anti-Racism Network will be hosting their first Conference in Canterbury in May 2016. We aim to bring together anti racists, refugee and migrant support groups and anti fascists across Kent and beyond to discuss how we can build a vibrant and inclusive movement. We want those with experience and practical skills to share with us.

There will be discussions on opposing racism and fascism such as that on ‘How do we oppose the Nazis in Dover’ with Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism and a speaker from London Anti-Fascists, chaired by a local Dover resident. Among the workshops and debates hosted at the conference will be a session to ‘know your rights at demos’ hosted by Green and Black Cross, a session on mass direct action hosted by Brighton Anti-Fascists and a session on the criminalisation of protest hosted by Defend The Right To Protest.

Anindya Bhattacharyya will be speaking on the rise of the far-right in Europe. Betty Joseph, chair of Race Relations Committee at SERTUC is speaking at our opening session and Wilf Sullivan from the Trades Union Congress will be speaking at the Austerity and Racism session. Students not Suspects have confirmed they are hosting a workshop and Amina Mangera a veteran of the battle of Lewisham is speaking at the session ‘from Lewisham to Walthamstow – how the fascists were beaten’.

Across Europe we are seeing the rise of the far-right. Refugees are being treated as criminals or non-humans by the EU, Britain and elsewhere. They have been facing ferocious physical attacks and are vilified by the mainstream media and being used to justify closing borders and enacting emergency legislation. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are also on the rise.

In Britain the far-right have splintered but hardened their views – now openly calling for violent repatriation. They are focusing their street movement primarily on violence against anti-racists and anti-fascists, trade unions and the organised working class. For them, Dover’s White Cliffs has become the symbolic location for ‘defending Britain from the invaders.’

However, there has been an outpouring of support and solidarity for refugees across Europe and the UK. Anti fascists and anti racists are mobilising in ever larger numbers to defeat the fascists on the streets. Many organisations are coming together to take on racist myths in their workplaces, their communities, schools and elsewhere. We need to focus on this and come together to discuss how we can strengthen our movement. There will be meetings, workshops and stalls hosted by a wide spectrum of groups and organisations to discuss how we can win.

Join us in Canterbury on Saturday!

 

Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kent-anti-racism-network-conference-tickets-24453320540

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1709411472663886/

 

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Misconceptions

Recent comments and articles have led to numerous misconceptions and ill-informed opinions surrounding anti-racist and anti-fascist movements, we would like to address this. Kent Anti-Racism Network was founded by a broad group of local people in the wake of the increasing Nazi marches and violence in our area. Collectively we decided enough was enough, these openly fascist and racist thugs were never and are never welcome.

Our aims and intentions have been and will continue to be, campaigning and raising money for refugees and the most vulnerable neighbours that struggle across the channel. This is emphasised by our ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ demonstration that successfully mobilised over 500 people in October 2015 and the most recent community day, Pies for Calais, in Dover on St. George’s day – 23rd April.

This recent action was victim of scaremongering by the local MP Charlie Elphicke, who stated our intention was to march and disrupt the town whilst commemorations of the zeebrugge raid were taking place. This is factually incorrect and very misleading. This is the same MP who has repeatedly attacked our movement and recently voted against giving sanctuary to 3,000 extremely vulnerable unaccompanied children. You can read our previous statement addressing Mr Elphicke’s remarks here: https://kentantiracismnetwork.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/statement-of-response-to-mp-charlie-elphicke/

In fact, the 23rd April was a fantastically, positive and fun day spent raising money and collections of food for a convoy of aid to Calais, music, face painting and of course lashings of pie, which was happily supported by local people! The suggestion that we would have the intention of disrupting an important local event such as the commemorations of the zeebrugge raid is astounding and most offensive, especially considering many of our members and activists have family ties to this. The community based day was organised after plans from the fascist ‘Pie and Mash Squad’ to descend on Dover once again, the Royal British Legion branded them “thugs” and their plans as “disgusting”. We decided to respond by raising hope, money and smiles.

As well as our sustained and dedicated solidarity work, we will continue to oppose racism and fascism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Since before September last year the area has seen relatively large, and openly Nazi marches maraud through Dover town centre, bringing weapons and violence with it. This has reduced through continued opposition and solidarity work to a handful of Nazi racists skulking around the edge, not able to reach the town centre, directed in a moving police kettle. Come the 2nd April we peacefully decorated and waved off a convoy of aid for Calais, sending love, solidarity and warm socks! We shall continue to counteract the assorted Nazis and fascists who march in Dover with the intent of stirring up racial hatred and perpetrating violence upon anti-fascists.

Being anti-racist and anti-fascist is not a ‘militant hard left’ standpoint, it is a show of humanity and decency.

As Wigan Anti-Fascists state:

“We have seen time and time again throughout history and across the globe that the minute you leave an intrinsically violent and hateful political ideology to just ‘show themselves up’, they have managed to indoctrinate people and have risen to places of extreme and dangerous power. They urge, with the help of our current government, people to direct their anger away from the 1% – the government and the massive conglomerates – and project it onto minority groups. Whilst you would hope that most people have the strength of mind to not conspire to this way of thinking, pack mentality and economical desperation under capitalism is a breeding ground for bigotry and hate.

After WW2 the world collectively said ‘Never Again’ to the Nazis, and this is exactly when we will let even the smallest piece of abhorrent, evil speech or action go unopposed: never.

Protecting your streets from Nazis should never be seen as extreme or antisocial behaviour.”

Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts were defeated by people prepared to stand up to them at Cable Street. The goose-stepping fascists that Mosley planned to force through the streets of the East End are the mirror of the fascists who were sieg-heiling in Dover. As in the 1930s, many people felt they had to be opposed and were prepared to stop them.

If you wish to join with us in opposing racists and fascists we welcome your support. We are proud to stand up to hate together in Dover and we will continue to oppose them if they march again.

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Pies for Calais – Report

Kent Anti Racism Network (KARN) held a community event in the heart of Dover on 23rd April to show solidarity, send much needed food and raise funds for the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) in Calais. Since March, we have been aware that the laughing stock of British fascism – the Pie and Mash Squad – had decided to come to Dover to spread their anti-refugee message. On their original event page, which advertised a march to the Dover Docks, 137 of Pie and Mash’s fellow fascists said they would be attending. KARN members met up in the first week of April to discuss how we should respond. From information received from our friends in the anti-fascist movement, we decided to hold our nerve and put on a community event rather than directly opposing them, as it looked highly likely the fascist stooges would be lucky to get 10 of their members to Dover.

To subvert the message of hate we came up with the idea of ‘Pies for Calais’. KARN agreed we would raise funds by baking pies and that we would bring people together to send a message of solidarity from Dover to our refugee sisters and brothers in Calais and elsewhere. Solidarity pies became our message. We put calls out asking people to bake pies. The response was fantastic. We also collected donations so we could buy food to send to Calais.

Our Pies were an instant hit in the Market Square, Dover. Around 40-50 people came along to sample them and to make donations. Members of local refugee solidarity organisations, such as Samphire and Kent Refugee Help, came along, as did local Labour and Green party members. Lighthouse Church members also attended, brought food and collected from their parishioners. The pies raised £167.50 and 25 Euros and our car was filled up with food. Total donations sent to RCK were £337.50 and 25 Euros.

Despite Pie and Mash’s threats of a huge turnout, and their ridiculous claims of local support, they managed to muster only 8 inept drunkards in Dover. Whilst we held the centre of town in celebration, the pathetic master race was seen skulking about.

We’d like to send big thanks to everyone who baked pies, donated online and elsewhere, attended this event and thanks to everyone who helped out in any way on the day. A special thanks to Sheereen, a lady from Dover, who attended her first KARN meeting last week and ended up running the pie stall! Her first words to us were “I don’t want these Nazis in my town.” And finally, we’d like to say thank you and solidarity to our anti-fascist friends from out of town who kept a vigilant, disciplined look out for possible trouble from the fascists.

 

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