A COALITION of anti-racism groups have called a protest, after a city centre stall was ‘attacked by thugs’.

Two men allegedly shoved and shouted at campaigners in Carfax, before trying to kick the stall over, throwing books on the floor, tearing up newspapers and trying to take a megaphone.

The incident follows a regional rise in hate crime, an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish centre in the city and a brutal racist attack in a Headington street.

Julie Simmons, one of four people on the stall at the time of this latest incident, said she and her colleagues were campaigning against the former foreign secretary Mr Johnson, in the wake of his remarks comparing Muslim women in burqas to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ She said: "Both the men were physically intimidating, including towering over me and shouting in my face; they clearly wanted to prevent us campaigning against racism.

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“Such behaviour has all the hallmarks of fascism, fuelled by racism, a far right perspective and a will to use violence and intimidation to shut down views they don't agree with.

“We sometimes have heated debates with people who disagree with us, but this was something else - an attempt to prevent freedom of speech - and is a worrying development. It is very heartening that other campaigns have responded with solidarity in calling a joint protest against this behaviour, we have to unite to defend peoples' right to campaign."

She added that the men quoted the Quran and repeatedly called the activists ‘paedophiles’.

The first man is described as around 6ft 3 with dark hair the second man around 5ft 6 with light brown hair and tattoos on one arm.

They have not been identified after the incident last Friday and there is little evidence that they have links to right-wing groups.

However, there is enough concern about a surge in far right activism that numerous Oxford groups are set to take a stand at a ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’ protest in Cornmarket Street from 11am tomorrow.

Local Labour councillor Tom Hayes, who has previously raised concerns with local police about Islamophobia and the far right, was cautious about drawing conclusions as to the identity of the alleged attackers, but added: “It’s really important that all of Oxford’s diverse community come together to say that far right activity will not be tolerated.”

Mr Hayes did warn of a rise in far right rhetoric nationwide and urged anyone who has experienced incidents of a similar nature to report them to police.

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Ian McKendrick, from Oxford Stand Up To Racism, added: "What we have seen more recently is an increase in the confidence of people with racist views – people are more likely to stop and have an aggressive argument and be abusive.

“We get the sense that this is a trend developing.”

Tracy Walsh, from Oxford Unite Against Fascism, said: "We have a good tradition of mobilising against fascism in Oxford, including the 1,500 strong protest against Nick Griffin speaking at the Oxford Union, and the hundreds we mobilised to challenge the English Defence League's racist marches in Oxford, Aylesbury and High Wycombe in the last two years, not to mention the larger mobilisations in London.”

The protest is being supported by Oxford Stand Up To Racism; Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Oxford Labour Muslim Network; Oxford Unite Against Fascism; Oxford Momentum; Oxford Love Music Hate Racism; Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire DWP PCS; Oxfordshire Refugee Solidarity; Oxfordshire NASUWT; Campaign to Close Campsfield and Oxford CND.

Cherry Mosteshar, co-chair of Oxford Momentum, said: "There is no place for bigots and racists in Oxford, and we stand with all decent people in the city against hate and prejudice."

In relation to the Carfax incident, a Thames Valley Police spokesman said they received a report of a public order incident near Cornmarket Street, Oxford, shortly after 5pm last Friday, but had made no arrests. Witnesses are asked to call 101 quoting URN 896 17/8.

Police say hate crime incidents in the Thames Valley area have risen from 1,236 in 2014/15 to 1,775 in 2016/17.

In July, a community walk was staged in Headington following a racist attack which left an Asian victim with a broken nose; while last week a man was spared jail after admitting to an anti-Semitic attack on the Chabad Student Centre in Cowley Road.