Last September fascists and anti fascists were allowed to march in Dover with disastrous results. Last weekend, these militant groups were again allowed to march at the same time. It was inevitable that the Police line would break, that control of the situation would be lost and that people would get hurt. For this reason allowing these demonstrations to go ahead was irresponsible, reckless and wrong. The demonstrations should have been held on different days following last Autumn's experience.
What happened was a total shambles and the Chief Constable and Police Commissioner have serious questions to answer. Many people have complained to me about what happened and I will be taking those complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.
The Police deny they lost control. They also say they had a "duty to facilitate" the rival demonstrations.
I do not agree. We all saw the bloody scenes on TV. We saw the moment the Police line broke and the rival demonstrations were allowed to meet with terrible consequences. Control was clearly lost. Kent Police should apologise to the people of Dover.
What about this "duty to facilitate" demonstrations? It's true. There is a duty to facilitate a peaceful protest under Article 11(1) of the Human Rights code. What the Police don't say is that the protest must be peaceful. After last September it was clear it would not be peaceful. Moreover Article 11(2) says the right to protest can be restricted in the interests of public safety, the prevention of disorder and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
My view is that a decision was made to put the right to protest ahead of the rights and freedoms of the people of Dover. The Police did not use their extensive powers to uphold public safety and prevent disorder. That was wrong. It was wrong for elderly people out doing their shopping to be left in fear. It was wrong for families to have to hide in shops while a baying mob roamed the streets outside. It was wrong that businesses, the port and our local economy were disrupted. The first call of the Police should have been to keep the people of Dover safe and secure. They had the powers to do so. They did not use them. That was wrong. This is why I have met with the Police Minister about what happened and why I am asking him to investigate.
We strive in Dover for civic renewal. What we saw was civil disorder. We encourage visitors to come and enjoy the town. We do not want outsiders to use Dover as a battleground. Never again should we see scenes like those we saw last weekend. Never again should the Police allow such scenes to happen. Never again should rival groups of militant extremists be allowed to demonstrate and clash in Dover.
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