A personal account of opposing a fascist National Front demonstration in Maidstone, Kent, 1984.
My first anti-fascist demonstration was in Kent in 1984. I heard at the London Workers Group (a mish-mash of anarchists, communists, etc.) that the National Front were marching through Maidstone the following weekend, and that there would be a counter-demo. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t know anybody else going.
So on the day I caught the train down there and started wandering around town. From a poster I found out there was a Labour Party-led march to ‘oppose’ the NF. I joined that because I didn’t know what else to do. I was bitterly disappointed after we trudged round town and it became clear that the Labour Party march was not going to try to stop the fascists, but purposefully marched around the other side of town to avoid them, then finished with a rally near the cattle market in the suburbs. At the rally a load of boring speakers ranted on about the evils of fascism etc etc which is all obvious anyway, then they advised everyone to go home. About a hundred people were still sitting on the grass so I stood up and said that we should go into town and look for the fascists. About half-a-dozen people agreed with me, so we set off for the town centre again, a bit nervous I must admit!
We wandered around the middle of Maidstone for a while then a beautiful thing happened. As we were walking down a wide road behind some shops we saw a group of about 20 lads coming towards us. Somehow we twigged that these were anti-fascists like us and we met up in the middle of the street with loads of smiles and greetings. It reminded me of those photos when the Russians met the Americans while fighting the nazis! I don’t know who the other group were, but I have since wondered if they were Red Action. In any case, they had information where the fascists would be, and now our combined force created a good morale boost. So we all set off, keen as mustard, to intercept the NF march.
We got to the route and saw them approaching about 100 yards away. I think there was about two hundred of them with their banners, union jacks, etc. I was very surprised to see a punk amongst their front rank, because I had always assumed punks were anti-authoritarian and so not inclined to fascism. The whole march was escorted by loads of police on foot, and a police van led the way.
We all stood in the middle of the road to block the march. When the front of the march was about 30 yards away the leading police van driver floored his accelerator and drove straight at us. We had to dive out of the way, but someone could easily have been killed. In this way the police assisted the fascists to march through a peaceful English town.
Later the NF were given police protection to make speeches from the bandstand in a local park. Mingling in the park were all kinds of people, some booing and jeering, others decidedly shifty. Eventually the police put the remaining fascists into police vans and gave them a lift to the train station – how sweet!