A demonstration by the ‘North East Yellow Vests’, a group that claims to be against government corruption, took place on Saturday lunchtime.
Meanwhile, a counter-protest was organised by ‘Stand Up To Racism County Durham’ and ‘County Durham Anti-Racism Coalition’, with the two sides facing off in Market Square.
The counter-protest ‘Oppose the Neon Nazis in Durham’ was organised through Facebook. The event description stated: “We have seen an attempt by the far right, both regionally and nationally, to hi-jack the Yellow Vest Movement, as a front for their racist and fascist agenda.
“Well known members of far-right organisations, including the EDL and North East Frontline Patriots, intend to match in Durham this Saturday, under a guide of emulating the Yellow Vest Movement in France.”
The yellow vest movement protested government corruption, universal credit and spending cuts
An organiser of the event told Palatinate that the organisations involved were motivated to create the protest after seeing Facebook posts from apparent members of the ‘North East Yellow Vest’ movement. These were said to include Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
He said: “This protest has been called in short notice because we heard a group claiming to be the “Yellow Vests” were staging a demonstration. The focus of their protest today appears to be emphasising Brexit, and the ‘Leave Means Leave’ campaign, but in effect, we’ve had a gathering of Nazis and fascists.”
The group also claim that some members of the ‘North East Yellow Vest’ movement have had previous involvement in the EDL and anti-Islam groups.
It was unclear what the ‘Yellow Vest’ protest was specifically focused on. One member taking part told Palatinate that they were protesting government corruption, universal credit and spending cuts.
Another stated that they were opposed to the suppression of women and children under Islamic law. Another said they were protesting the government’s reported involvement in adding fluoride to drinking water and the development of 5G, the latest generation of cellular mobile communication technology, and it’s supposed effects on human health.
A counter-protest was organised by ‘Stand Up To Racism County Durham’ and ‘County Durham Anti-Racism Coalition’
There was also a large selection of ‘Leave Means Leave’ campaign material on display. One of the group explained to Palatinate that they saw the attempt to not take the UK out of Europe as a form of government corruption.
There was a large police presence in place to keep both groups separate. One officer told Palatinate that their priority was to allow both sides to protest peacefully, but that they would step in if it escalated and could bring harm to the public, including families shopping at the market stalls.“
The far right have attempted to hijack the Yellow Vest Movement
Photographs: Mark Norton