Carl Benjamin – known by his online alias Sargon of Akkad – who faced controversy last week over a tweet to a Labour MP that he “wouldn’t even rape her”, arrived to cheers of support in town yesterday.
But he met a wall of anti-fascists who fiercely challenged the hopeful and his supporters on the issue of freedom of speech and the now infamous tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips in 2016.
Michelle Marsiglia came to protest against what she said was the use of rhetoric at women.
She said: “As a feminist, what Carl said in that tweet, I found that disgusting. I’m also here because of Carl’s view that we could never eradicate rape because it’s part of the human condition, which is a pretty cynical way of putting it.”
The stand-off was largely peaceful, except for a scuffle between two protesters after a placard was thrown on the floor, resulting in its owner grabbing the other man before being separated.
Brian Sykes said: “I think it’s been pretty civil, they were listening to each other’s arguments. It’s good for democracy, nobody has the right to shut it down.
“This is in public, everyone has heard what has been said for themselves, otherwise it would be on Twitter or Facebook where it can get misconstrued.
“I’ve got no defined allegiance. I just want to know what people have to say. A lot of people are politically disenfranchised.
“The main political parties have to get their act together before everything gets to tribal and fractured.”
Mr Benjamin has amassed a cult-like following over social media, in particular through his YouTube channel.
Mark Hutchinson, a minister whose son is a fan of the candidate’s online presence, said he wanted to see issues apart from identity politics discussed.
“I’m neutral as a minister, but dialogue is key, I would of liked to ask him about Extinction Rebellion and whether he would enter into dialogue within Swindon inter-faith group.”
A Swindon Trades Council spokesman, which organised the counter-demo, said: “We have to stop this extreme group spreading it’s racist message in the upcoming elections.
"Unfortunately, over the past few months, Swindon has become a target of the far-right.
“However local people have done a great job of opposing them and rejecting their politics of division and hate.
“There is no room in Swindon for the extreme views of people like Carl Benjamin, or his increasingly far right party.”