Far-right supporters and counter-demonstrators were kept separated by the police cordon as they voiced their views on the government’s plans to house up to 2,000 asylum seekers at RAF Scampton, the historic home of the Dambuster Squadron, on Saturday.
Lincolnshire police officers attended both a far-right rally and a counter-protest organized by Stand Up To Racism which saw over 100 supporters march through Lincoln town centre.
The government announced last month that it is working on proposals to use the Scampton site, about five miles north of the town, to provide housing for single adult male asylum seekers, starting with around 200 and “over time up to 2,000 people’.
Refugees will also have access to catering facilities and primary care at Scampton, the former home of the Red Arrows and World War II Dambusters squadron.
The protests in Lincoln come just a day after Braintree District Council lost a High Court bid to prevent the government from housing up to 1,700 asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield, a former RAF base in Essex.
More than a hundred protesters took part in a Stand Up To Racism march through Lincoln on Saturday as the far right staged a demonstration against plans to use RAF Scampton to house refugees
Protesters hold an English flag reading ‘Illegals Not Wanted’ at a far-right rally in central Lincoln on Saturday
A small group of far-right supporters listened to arguments against the government proposal
A protester against the plans holds a sign: ‘RAF base resident says the left does not speak for me’
A protester holds a sign arguing that RAF Scampton cannot accommodate 1,700 asylum seekers
The government announced last month that it is working on proposals to use the Scampton site, about five miles north of the town, to provide shelter for single adult male asylum seekers, starting with around 200 and “over time up to 2,000 people’
Local government lawyers asked for a court order to ban the use of the airport to house asylum seekers and opposed the Home Office’s argument that the need to house more people was an ’emergency’ according to the planning law.
But Mr Justice Waksman concluded that the court did not have the legal authority to grant the council’s request for an injunction, and therefore ruled in favor of the government.
The protests also took place as Border Force officials escorted 100 migrants to Dover Docks after Suella Braverman announced changes to the illegal migration law on Friday.
The Home Secretary said proposed changes to her controversial legislation aimed at preventing migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats would help prevent “last-minute, false claims”.
After Saturday’s counter-protest march in Cornhill, Lincoln, Calvin Bissitt, secretary of Lincoln and District Trades Council, said the protesters supported refugees and opposed efforts to pin the blame on asylum seekers.
While the counter-demonstration did not support Scampton’s use to house asylum seekers, it sought to make it clear that refugees should be made welcome in the UK.
“Refugees fought and died in Britain’s skies,” Bissitt said.
“I think nothing is a greater insult to them and their legacy than to allow the far right … to speak as if they care about the heritage and legacy of the RAF.”
About 10 police officers were briefly forced to form a cordon between the counter-demonstrators and the far-right gathering, with ex-soldier and former Patriotic Alternative activist Alek Yerbury being the keynote speaker.
Mr Yerbury told a small crowd gathered at a bridge over the River Witham: ‘What we have shown to the Home Office, the council and their accomplices is that we see through their game.
“We showed them that if they are not willing to solve this problem, we will do it ourselves.”
Ex-soldier and former Patriotic Alternative activist Alek Yerbury was the keynote speaker at the far-right demonstration
Protesters at the counter rally were not in favor of using Scampton to house asylum seekers, but tried to make it clear that refugees should be made welcome in the UK
Protesters at the counter rally hold signs reading “Refugees Welcome” as they marched on
More than a hundred supporters turned out for the Stand Up To Racism protest in Lincoln
Lincolnshire Police had held talks with the organizers of both events and stressed that it was the duty of the force to facilitate peaceful protest, whilst ensuring officers were present to avoid the possibility of crime or disorder.
A member of Scampton Parish Council had urged people not to attend the far-right protest as it cut across people’s legitimate concerns.
In a statement released after plans for Scampton were announced, the Home Office said it recognized the importance of the rich heritage at the base and is committed to preserving and enhancing the heritage, in partnership with Historic England .