A lively protest by a diverse group of local people heavily outnumbered Britain First in Rochester, reports Nathan Bolton.
Fascist group Britain First were left unable to march to the war memorial in Rochester High Street as part of their day of action on Saturday after being stopped by local anti-fascist activists and residents. Britain First are standing a candidate in the upcoming Rochester and Strood by-election, but have stated that they and UKIP have “almost everything” in common with one another and are “almost identical in policies.”
Britain First members in uniform were joined by their leader Paul Golding and their candidate for MP in Rochester and Strood, Jayda Fransen, in a convoy which included a “desert camouflage” 4×4. They were outnumbered around 5-1, managing to only muster 30 to 40 members for their proclaimed day of action, and were unable to give out any leaflets or march the length of the High Street. The vast majority of them were not local to the Medway towns.
Initially gathering outside the train station, Britain First were mocked and harangued by passers-by who were unequivocal that they did not represent Rochester and were unwelcome. This unsurprisingly ended up with their members racially abusing residents and asking “are you even British?” of anyone who challenged their racism. They carried union flags but had to put some back in the van when they realised they had more flags than members.
The anti-fascist opposition was lively and diverse. There were people from faith groups, masked-up anarchists of seventeen or eighteen, parents with children dressed in Halloween costumes, members of Left Unity and the local arts scene as well as trade unionists, a few people I recognised from school (!) as well as, importantly, a delegation from Thanet Stand up to UKIP. Popular chants included “where’s your leaflets gone?” and “Royal Mail, Royal Mail, Royal Mail”, references to the fact that Royal Mail have refused to deliver Britain First leaflets to homes in the constituency because they believe they break election law. The leaflets show a picture of a Muslim woman and the word “Warning”, and campaign against the building of a mosque. Election literature is illegal if it is threatening, abusive or insulting. Whilst determined, the humour of the local people opposing Britain First was the best part of the day.
After Britain First members managed to walk a short way down the High Street, as Kent Police kept counter-demonstrators back, they were stopped again as people ran ahead to block the road. Whilst held here for a time, Britain First candidate Jayda Fransen managed to grab an anti-fascist placard which was then burned. Their defiance quickly turned to embarrassment as they realise that burning a likeness of her own face wearing a Nazi military helmet and a moustache looked ridiculous.
Eventually managing to get part way up the High Street, Britain First attempted to surround the Labour Party stall – as mentioned in this tweet by local Labour councillor and PPC for Chatham and Aylesford Tris Osborne.
– Tris Osborne (@cllrtrisosborne) November 1, 2014
However after a short while, and with bolstered opposition from residents, Britain First retreated and went back the way they came.
The action was a fantastic counter to the attempts of Britain First to intimidate local residents and proved that there is a clear anti-racist constituency in the Medway Towns and beyond. But UKIP are flying high in the polls and look set to win the election on 20 November. The possibility of challenging UKIP’s racism exists in the towns, but none of the Westminster parties are able to harness that anti-racist sentiment in any meaningful way. As Labour look to ape the anti-immigrant policies of UKIP and the Conservatives, the ability of Labour to be the electoral vehicle for anti-racists to express their opposition to UKIP will be undermined, possibly to devastating effect.
A video report can be found on the Telegraph website.