Ukip calls for police to arrest protesters ‘who call us fascists’ ahead of showdown with anti-fascist groups in Brighton
MEP candidate Janice Atkinson said Nigel Farage was ‘very concerned for safety of candidates’ before tonight’s meeting, and that activists who ‘call little old ladies racist Nazi sluts’ should be arrested for hate crimes
A senior Ukip MEP candidate has called for police to arrest protesters who call its members ‘fascists’, ahead of a showdown with activists in Brighton this evening.
Janice Atkinson, Ukip’s South East chair, said party leader Nigel Farage was “very concerned for the safety of candidates” due to appear at a public meeting scheduled for 7pm by Brighton and Hove Ukip.
The local branch of campaign group Unite Against Fascism has called for people to picket the talks, and Ms Atkinson told The Independent that she had “feared for her safety” when they did so at a previous meeting in February.
Ms Atkinson said the party had contacted Sussex Police’s chief constable and called for any protesters who “call our supporters fascists, hurl other abuse or any physical assault” to be arrested.
She said: “I have no problem with free speech but talk of fascism and Nazism to the third-biggest mainstream party in Britain is disgraceful.
“We are asking police to act under the Public Order Act. If we are having pensioners turning up and being called racist Nazi sluts, little old ladies who themselves or their parents probably fought in the war – that’s a hate crime, it’s inciting the public to violence.”
Ms Atkinson said the party was expecting “a rabble of about 100 – but it could be more – from Hope Not Hate, Unite Against Fascism and a new group linked to [Green Party leader] Natalie Bennett called Movement Against Xenophobia.
She added that while she was not attending the meeting herself, fellow Ukip MEP candidate Patricia Culligan would be stopping on her way into the hall in Brighton to try and “engage them in dialogue”.
The comments come in the midst of a row between Ukip and the party’s detractors over free speech, after it emerged that a complaint led police to visit a blogger who posted facts about party policy on Twitter.
And in a separate ongoing argument, Mr Farage has accused Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism of being “backed by Labour” and waging a violent campaign against him.
Ms Atkinson said she had spoken to Mr Farage, and that he was “very concerned for the safety of candidates” ahead of the Brighton talks.
She described how, at a similar meeting in Brighton in February, she had been forced to use two bodyguards – recommended by the leader himself – and that protesters left her “fearing for my safety for the first time in my life”.
Ahead of the showdown, Ms Atkinson described Brighton as a “hotspot” for anti-fascist activist groups, which “tap into the [Socialist Worker] types that live around there”.
Responding to critics who have described the calls for police action as a publicity stunt, she said: “This is absolutely a legitimate concern – but at the same time, the more this happens the more we rise in the polls.”
The moment Ukip leader Nigel Farage was hit over the head with a placard while in Kent At the weekend Mr Farage accused Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate of “acting in a violent way more than once”, and referred to an incident when he was “banged over the head with a banner” outside a meeting in January this year.
A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate told The Independent that the group had no plans to be involved in picketing any Ukip events, and said that it instead asked people to “protest by voting against them at the ballot box”.
Yesterday the group's leader Nick Lowles called for Mr Farage to “stand up” the claims that his group was abusive at party events.
“If he’s got evidence that we’ve been behind violence I’d like to see it,” he said. “He’s made claims against us and we know it’s not true - we’ve not organised or supported a single protest at their events. We’d like him to stand it up because we’re confident he hasn’t got any answers to it.”
Unite Against Fascism said on Sunday: “It’s astonishing a politician would attack an anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation rather than deal with the fact that by playing the race card, he’s igniting the same issue as Enoch Powell.”
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said that, rather than any direct conversations with the chief constable, Ukip had “sent the force a press release” regarding the meeting.
A statement read: “Sussex Police are aware of the UKIP meeting taking place in Hove this evening.
“There will be an appropriate police presence outside the hall and if necessary, there will be a proportionate policing response to any incident that might occur.”
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