The national debate over immigration came to Nottingham at 6pm on Wednesday 21st October.
What was meant to be a silent protest in Old Market Square, organised through social media by a loose coalition of groups opposed to uncontrolled immigration, became more than that when protestors from both sides clashed.
Pro-immigration groups, including Fightback Nottingham and Nottingham Antifascists, staged a counter-demonstration opposing the demonstrators who they perceive to be “largely if not wholly far-right racists”.
The counter-demonstrators arrived in large numbers an hour early to the Old Market Square, and set up with their backs to the town hall, looking onto the Square.
“The counter-demonstration chants included “Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”
The demonstrators were first spotted around fifteen minutes after the stated start of their event, with an England flag, gathering outside Wetherspoons.
By 6:30pm there were just under twenty anti-immigration demonstrators facing over 100 counter-demonstrators.
The demonstrations quickly escalated, with some counter-demonstrators throwing tomatoes, and a line of policemen were required to separate the two sides.
The counter-demonstration chants included “Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” and escalated to chants noted to be controversial but quoted here, “Follow your leader! Shoot yourself like Adolf Hitler!”
The chants of the anti-immigration demonstrators included, “We’re taking it back! We’re taking it back! This is our country, we’re taking it back!”
“The stated objective of their anti-immigration demonstration was to oppose uncontrolled immigration”
One of the anti-immigration groups who organised the demonstration, Notts Casual Infidels, describe themselves as a “freelancing movement” that originally came from the football scene and who are now committed to tackling the “Islamification of Great Britain”.
The stated objective of their anti-immigration demonstration on social media was to oppose uncontrolled immigration, a direct reaction to the perceived impending influx of migrants.
Bugsy, an elderly Irish member of Fightback Nottingham, told Impact: “Groups like the EDL [are] coming into the argument about refugees, migrants and other folks who genuinely need help, just on the basis of stupid racism”.
A demonstrator who wished to remain anonymous, but identified with the Notts Casual Infidels, insisted that the majority of refugees were not in fact refugees, but economic migrants.
The protestor also stated that even those that were refugees should have under international law stopped in the first safe country they reached. They cited Hungary and Libya as examples.
By 7.30pm both demonstrations had begun to wind down.
As the police escorted the anti-immigration demonstrators out of the square, they made it clear that this is not the last time this contentious issue will be on the agenda in Nottingham.
Image: Takver via Flickr