HUNDREDS of anti-racist campaigners demonstrated in Southampton today to oppose a planned far-right march through the city.

The largely peaceful event in the city centre was met with some scuffles between police and left-wing activists.

Police brandished truncheons and held back demonstrators ahead of the expected arrival of nationalist groups at the Bargate.

But most reported a "brilliant" atmosphere with songs and speeches.

South Coast Resistance and Pie and Mash Squad did not appear in numbers despite planning an event to celebrate Brexit.

Hundreds of members of the public were joined by the group Refugees Welcome and masked protesters from Southampton AntiFascists vowing to "kick the racists out" of the city.

Members of the hard-right groups were due to arrive at the Bargate at noon but did not appear to do so. Instead most reportedly gathered in Bedford Place and around Southampton Central Station.

Daily Echo:

Heidi Wyldwood, above centre, 46, who works for the support group New Forest and Southampton Red Tent, said: "I felt it was really important to come here for those who are feeling vulnerable, fearful for their futures and frightened to say there are a huge amount of people who are compassionate and care about them."

Debbie Avani, above right, 51, a yoga teacher from Calmore, said: "This is the first time I have done anything like this but I had to be a participant here and send the message that we don't agree with the hatred we have seen on social media and in the papers."

Left-wing activists handed out slips telling supporters to give "no comment" to police, even during interviews.

Nick Chaffey, the chair of the Southampton Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, said: "we want to live in a community where people can be confident in school, work and their community without discrimination or prejudice.

"The South Coast Resistance are a tiny group of people who don't represent racism but if their ideas go unchallenged it leaves a vacuum.

"Facism is a a policy that aims to destroy the ordinary working class."

Police blocked a splinter group from entering Southampton Central station as they appeared to pursue nationalist campaigners.

Some protesters attacked a taxi as it tried to leave the station.

There was little travel disruption and the station was shortly reopened.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: “When we are informed about any rally or possible protest we plan carefully to police them in the most appropriate way. This is to make sure people are able to exercise their right to demonstrate, without the need for police intervention to protect or in some cases, restrict those rights and also to make sure the event is peaceful. This is what we have planned for this demonstration and we are pleased this worked successfully today.

“We had the appropriate resources deployed to manage the rallies.

“One person was arrested today during the policing operation but this was for a matter unrelated to today’s protests.”

The march came after Southampton's communities chief, Satvir Kaur, said she had received reports of racist abuse aimed at Polish and Asian residents after the referendum.

That led to calls for calm and tolerance from both sides of the Brexit debate, but the police have actually recorded less reports of hate crime in the week after the referendum than those before.

Hampshire has not seen a rise in hate crime since the referendum, bucking a national trend which saw such offences rise by 400 per cent.