Clashes at rival rallies over asylum seekers in Portsmouth

Picture: Jason Kay, UKNIP
Picture: Jason Kay, UKNIP
Chief Insp Clare Jenkins

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RIVAL demonstrators clashed in Portsmouth Guildhall Square and Commercial Road as major protests were held today on the issue of asylum seekers.

There were scuffles as people demonstrating for more help from Portsmouth for asylum seekers were confronted by rival demonstators.

The flashpoint came as the more-help group sought to leave the Guildhall Square and march to Commercial Road.

Right-wing opponents sought to block them from leaving the Guildhall Square and scuffles broke out.

Several police officers were pushed as they intervened.

Around 25 officers were dotted around the area before left and right-wing campaigners stage rallies about the council’s bid to get the door shut on asylum families coming to the city.

Members of Stand Up to Racism, students and local residents who have poured out their support to people fleeing war-torn countries gathered to lobby councillors to change their stance.

Meanwhile, the English Defence League and other right-wing campaigners rallied in support of the council and against the pro-asylum group.

Today’s demonstrations came after the council voted in favour of a letter being sent to home secretary Theresa May requesting she remove Portsmouth as a ‘cluster area’ that takes in asylum seekers.

The council has argued that it is standing up for the majority of people in the city, as an influx of more asylum seekers would throw more of a strain on local services.

Today, rival groups tried to shout each other down in Commercial Road, sojme chanting ‘No more refugees’ and others ‘Refugees are welcome here.’

As the pro-asylum deomstrators marched to Paradise Street, right-wing rivals ran along Commercial Road. Police officers pursued them to keep them in sight.

Later both groups regathered in the Guildhall Square, where they continued to chant against each other.