Several people have been hurt and three people arrested after far-right and anti-fascist protesters clashed during opposing demonstrations in Dover.
Witnesses said bricks were thrown and fights broke out close to Dover Priory station after hundreds of anti-fascists travelled to the city to oppose a demonstration against refugees. Police said one person sustained a broken arm and five others had minor injuries.
Vyara Gylsen, who joined the demonstration on the anti-fascist side, said fighting broke out when a band of far-right protesters found a way around the police lines separating the two groups. Far-right protesters attacked using metal poles, sticks and bottles, she said, while anti-fascists fought back with bricks and flares until police were able to separate the groups.
“For a long time there was just a standoff because the police were preventing the two sides from having contact,” Gylsen said. “But then the fascists found a way to get around so the two sides ended up clashing. There was fighting, there were flares, a lot of bricks got thrown.”
About 20 people from each side appeared to be have been injured in the fighting, many of them sustaining head wounds, Gylsen said. “It was probably the most violent protest I’ve attended, there was a lot of physical contact,” she added.
After police separated the groups they protected the far-right demonstrators as they marched through Dover to a rallying point close to the docks where a crowd of about five dozen listened to speeches.
Violence linked to the protests began before demonstrators reached Dover, when far-right and anti-fascist protesters inadvertently stopped at the same services on the M20 near Maidstone en route to the port.
At least one windscreen was smashed and a swastika was daubed on the side of a coach, allegedly in blood, after rightwingers attacked using sticks and debris found around the car park of the service station. Police arrested six people on suspicion of violent disorder.
Anindya Bhattacharyya, 44, from Whitechapel in east London, who was travelling with the anti-fascist group, said he was away from the coaches and inside the service station when violence erupted.
“The service station staff bolted the doors and through the windows we could see a large group of fascists,” he said. “They were wearing Combat 18 T-shirts and one had an Enoch Powell T-shirt.
“They were running at the anti-fascist demonstrators and there was some argy-bargy, things were chucked back and forth. And then the anti-fascists went back to their coaches and the group of fascists basically tooled up with bits of wood and bins.
“They attacked one of our coaches and smashed up the windows and one of them came and daubed a swastika in blood on the side of one of the coaches.”
After the police arrived the rightwing demonstrators were taken away from the area, Bhattacharyya said. He and the rest of the anti-fascist demonstrators, who had all travelled from London, were kept on their coaches, surrounded by a police cordon.
Police later said they had seized more than 20 weapons in Dover and at the M20 services, including a lock-knife, knuckle duster, poles adapted to cause harm, pieces of wood, glass, hammers and bricks.
A statement said: “Kent police would like to thank the local community for its cooperation and patience throughout the demonstrations.”
Duncan Cahill of Hope Not Hate, an anti-racist organisation, said Dover had been the scene of an ongoing standoff between anti-fascists and rightwing groups led by a resurgent National Front.
“There have been a few demos down in Dover where the far-right and anti-fascists have had clashes,” he said. “What we have today and for the past few months is massive callouts by just about every Nazi group in the country and everyone involved in anti-fascism has gone down there today for what looks like a massive punch-up.”
Kent police had earlier warned Dover residents to expect disruption and delays on local and main roads throughout the day.
The force said: “It is anticipated that these demonstrations will attract larger numbers than recent protests and there will be extra police officers in the town whose main role will be to facilitate a peaceful protest, to maintain public safety and to minimise the impact on local people going about their daily business.”