At the weekend fascists and anti fascists again assembled in Dover. Last time ended in clashes and violence. This time the Police planned for every eventuality. Over 600 Police Officers were present. They were fully equipped with helmets, body armour and batons. They brought dogs and horses to ensure they had all necessary back up and support. They kept the peace. Last time I was very critical of the Police planning. This time I think they did a great job. The policing was appropriate, proportionate and effective.
Yet at what cost? Policing on this scale is massively expensive. The bill is picked up by the Kent taxpayer for policing people who are from London and beyond who have come seeking a day of violence by the seaside. This is before you get to the disruption to the town and the local economy. The national economy is also harmed as so much freight is delayed when the roads are closed off for these demonstrations. By the end of April there will have been three demonstrations this year. That's almost one every month. The last one was violent. The one late last year was violent. Last weekend was only not violent because the roads were flooded with Police. There will be another on April 23rd - which may again be violent. And so it goes on. The far right and far left come here to use our town as a battleground. Each claims a moral superiority over the other. Yet the truth is they are both as bad as each other. They are simply opposite sides of the same coin of hatred and extremism. These demonstrators' lust for violence knows no bounds and was only checked at the weekend by the powerful Police presence.
The balance is all wrong. People are rightly concerned about our "democratic right to protest". Yet we don't hear about our "democratic right to go about our daily lives." We should. For when we look at the right to protest it ought to be balanced against the disruption people suffer. I do not think people in Dover would mind a demonstration every so often. Yet to go at the clip of a demonstration nearly every month is too much. Particularly given the violence that so often comes with it. To have the town disrupted so often is disproportionate and too high a price to pay.
It's time for reform to enable Dovorians to go about their daily lives without being harassed by extremists. Without the high street having to lose another busy shopping day. Without ferries standing idle at the port and lorries at a standstill chuffing up pollution and dumping yet more rubbish on our already littered roads. This is why the law needs to be reformed and the right to protest must be balanced against the right of people to go about their daily lives.
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