The police are not your friends- a tale from an anti-fascist counter demo

Originally published in Rebel City, this is a first hand account of policing at an antifascist counter demo in Dover.

On my way to the protest I’m stopped by police on suspicion of carrying an offensive weapon. They ask me to give my name and address before they can search me. I refuse, so they ask two more times before admitting this is not a requirement and so begin the search.  I have nothing that could be used as a weapon on me but they confiscate my scarf as they feel it could be used to disguise my face. They say I can get it back in a week’s time if I give my name and address. I refuse. They give me a ticket to say which officers searched me and leave with my scarf. Fifteen minutes later I am stopped again. The officer informs me the flag I am carrying could be used as an offensive weapon (maximum sentence: four years). As I am being restrained I inform them that the officers who searched me previously did not agree with them. They do not believe me. I produce the ticket from the previous search and I’m let go.

At the protest we’re quickly surrounded by police. They want to clear the road so the neo-Nazis can march along it. A few minutes later the first horse charge comes. The horses push a few people back but there’s nowhere for us to go as we’re surrounded on two sides by a police line and the other by a metal fence. The police horses to my left crush me against the police line to my right. People are screaming, some are on the floor. The horses retreat whilst snatch squads start forming behind the police lines. They give a warning that anyone wearing a face covering may be arrested. The man to my right has a bandana across his face so becomes a target for the police. Four officers grab him and try to pull him away. People around him hold on to him and a tug of war begins. After a tense minute I hear the commanding officer shout ‘Leave him, just grab anyone’. They shift their attention to me and try to drag me away. Another tug of war. The two women behind me hold me around the waist and my rucksack. The police give up after about a minute.

This happens three more times as the police attempt to grab individuals from the crowd. The final time is the worst. More police come and push a lot of people back. As there is still nowhere to go people trip over and collapse and soon have police standing on them as they try to grab their targets. I am grabbed by the arms by two officers whist a third punches me in the face three times. I think he is trying to knock me unconscious so I’ll be easier to drag out of the crowd. There is a lot of screaming. A woman to my left shouts ‘someone is going to die’ as people fall on top of each other on the floor, with comrades standing on top of them and nowhere to go. Eventually the police give up and retreat. About six people were taken, likely to be charged with ‘violent disorder’.

The lines of protesters and police are in a stalemate. An officer shouts ‘You’re just as bad as them! They have a right to protest!’, I reply ‘When you go home tonight you can tell your kids you spent the day helping Nazis march’. The officer replies ‘We’re just doing out jobs!’ so a man over my shoulder shouts back ‘that didn’t hold up at Nuremberg!’ I think we won the battle of words.

The commanding officer appears on the front line and shouts that we must move to the ‘designated protest area’. Still reeling from the punches to my head I move back in the direction he’s pointing. When I get there another line of police start screaming at me to go back the way I came. It soon becomes clear there is no ‘designated protest area’ and the police don’t know what they’re doing.

Instead we’re kettled for an hour as the Nazis march past. There are between 30 and 40 of them and 400 of us with the same number of police.

When I get home I see on the news that, apparently, the protest turned violent and six people were arrested for violent disorder. I realise these were the people who were stood near me, arbitrarily arrested because they were the only ones the police could grab. They will face court and potential jail sentences.

In one afternoon I was nearly arrested for three or four different crimes, none of which I had committed. I was assaulted by a police officer and subject to (attempted) arbitrary arrest. But when I considered complaining, I was advised not to bother as I would most likely get charged with violent disorder as the police would make up statements that I started the altercation where they beat me. I still, however, consider myself lucky as, thanks to my comrades, I was not snatched by police. I have since learned a woman who was arrested on the day has been sentenced to one year for violent disorder.


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