"This is the first time they’ve attacked on such a large-scale"
I was at the event all day. There had been no problems: the police were nearby, and the last DJ was about to come on. At that time one of the Polish neo-Nazi groups started forming behind the stage. One of them attempted to steal a beer from a smaller stage. Someone in our group tried to stop them. Then they started throwing punches, and then bottles and flares. Then they stabbed one of our guys.
This event was a multicultural family event. There were children and babies there. There was music like reggae being played. But the extremist group had also been planning to hold a rally nearby in the park which the council and police were aware of. They were out looking for trouble. They’ve been congregating in the area around the park for about three years now and they’re getting stronger in force. They have between 350 and 500 members and often hold rallies [An online Facebook group called ‘Zjednoczeni Emigranci UK’ is listed as having 315 members. It is closed to the public].
"The rise of extremist groups like this seems to be a relatively new phenomenon"
They’re supposedly linked with extreme far-right groups and hooligans in Poland. The group has sprayed racist graffiti and stickers around the area of the park. Before, they’d been involved in minor crimes like burglaries and petty vandalism. But this is the first time they’ve attacked on such a large-scale on a group of people, injuring someone in the process. They were audacious and bold: they didn’t care that we had 200 people on our side. Maybe that’s because they are used to fighting large groups of people.
I know a Jewish gentleman was attacked but I can’t say whether the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism or not. These were simply young people out having fun in the sun. But the rise of extremist groups like this seems to be a relatively new phenomenon. I hadn’t even heard of this group until I saw them. I spoke to local residents and they said the group had been around for three years and that they were growing in size at an alarming rate.
This article was written by FRANCE 24 journalist Andrew Hilliar (@andyhilliar).