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All pictures Andrew Aitchison

A victim of fascist violence in Dover tells us his story

We interview the anti-fascist campaigner who was assaulted by neo-Nazi groups at this weekend’s protest in Dover

Fascism in Britain is well and truly alive today.

That might seem like a terrifying and improbable claim, but it’s actually a statement of fact. This weekend, far-right protestors held a demonstration in Dover against refugees. They were met by resistance from anti-fascist groups, who had travelled down from all over the country to challenge the far-right groups – many of whom identify as Nazis, replete with swastikas and Hitler salutes.

The protest deteriorated into violence before many people had even reached Dover. I’d originally planned to interview a feminist group who’d chartered a coach from London to take them to Dover to show support for refugees and the anti-fascist movement. However, they never made it to Dover. When they pulled into a service station on route, fascists who’d been following them surrounded the vehicle and other coaches full of anti-fascist protestors, and wreaked havoc – smashing windows and daubing swastikas. Shaken, they had to turn back.

For those who managed to make it to Dover, they were confronted with often terrifying scenes. The protest quickly turned violent, and despite the presence of hundreds of armed riot police this wasn’t enough to keep everybody safe. The Guardian reports that around forty people were injured in clashes between the fascist and anti-fascist elements, with far-right activists wielding metal poles and glass bottles. At least one person sustained a broken arm, while numerous people were seen to be visibly injured – one person being taken away by police with blood streaming from his face.

The protest was organized by far-right groups such as the National Front, South East Alliance and neo-Nazis Combat 18, who eyewitnesses reported were wearing the organisation’s t-shirts. While an earlier protest in the day headed by the Kent Anti-Racism was completed peacefully, the right-wing protest that followed swiftly descended into violence.

Dover has become a focal point for many far-right groups, frustrated at what they feel to be an influx of refugees flooding into the port town. A brief scan through Twitter reveals burgeoning support for the far-right in the UK.

To find out more, we spoke to Dan Glass, an anti-fascist protestor from the Holocaust memorial group Never Again Ever!, who was attacked at the protest by far-right campaigners. As we speak, he’s sporting a nasty black eye, although he’s lucky to have escaped serious harm. He tells me about his recollection of that day.

"I went down to Dover with Never Again Ever! We’re all grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and we were in a convoy of coaches coming down from London – there were around five coaches in total. I was probably quite naïve beforehand – my partner Dan has seen far right protests before and knew what to expect, but I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was.”

For Dan and his fellow anti-protestors, the protest got violent before they’d even arrived in Dover. “We pulled up at a service station and I got out to have a cigarette and it just all kicked off.” Far right protestors surrounded Dan’s coach and three other coaches. “There were about fifty fascists in total. I noticed one guy in particular, he was wearing a Combat 18 t-shirt and walking around our coach with a metal stick. They started throwing chairs and smashing our windows with hammers – you know the emergency hammers you get in coaches to break the glass? They were using those.” 

It wasn’t just the anti-fascist protestors who were targeted. “They targeted the car of a Russian family of tourists, they were kicking it in and smashing the windows. It was really scary." What was particularly disturbing for Dan and his fellow protestors – some of whom are direct descendants of Holocaust survivors ­– were the Nazi messages being put out. “They painted a swastika in blood on the coach next to us. I couldn’t believe it was happening”.

When Dan actually arrived at the protests, things literally turned bloody. “There was a main area where the police were supposed to be stopping the neo-Nazis from entering, but they seemed to just be roaming freely around. They were everywhere, wearing balaclavas with white skulls on them. People were locking up their houses and hiding in the windows”.

At this point they stumbled across two anti-fascist protestors who’d been attacked and had head wounds. “We were walking down the road to try and find them an ambulance when around 100 neo-Nazis just ran at us. We all just scattered, and I ended up running up the steps of a house and they just surrounded me.

One punched me in the head, and then I fell to the floor and I don’t remember much more. I remember being kicked and then coming to properly around forty minutes later. I asked my partner what had happened and he was like, ‘You’ve been beaten up by Nazis’. It could have been worse though, I saw this old man whose arm had been kicked so much it was broken, and there was just blood everywhere”.

For Glass, seeing far-right protestors in the streets of Dover waving ‘Hitler was right’ flags needs to serve as a wake-up call for the rest of the UK. “It’s terrifying. We imagine Britain as this democracy, but neo-Nazis and the far-right are becoming more and more organized. We need to look at the structural reasons why this is happening – like the way we’re dehumanizing refugees. If we don’t nip it in the bud now, the far-right is going to become emboldened. They’re already getting stronger everyday”.