CAMPAIGNERS at an anti-racism rally in the centre of Oxford today have hit out at the local immigration detention centre, calling it a 'racist prison'.

The Campaign to Close Campsfield group are among a host of groups who joined the demonstration in Cornmarket Street from 11am.

Speaker Liz Peretz won a round of applause when she said the Campsfield Immigration Detention Centre near Kidlington was in essence a 'racist prison' that should be shut down.

Addressing the crowd she said: "[One form of] racism around here and across the UK is locking people up who have not ever committed a crime in Campsfield Immigration Centre and other places like that.

"We call them racist prisons because almost everybody in them is of colour.

"The people who aren't of colour whose migration status is iffy don't get put in those places."

Today's rally was called for this week after a group of Oxford anti-racism campaigners said a similar stall in Cornmarket Street was attacked by 'thugs' who shouted at them, tried to kick the stall over and threw books on the floor.

That attack followed a series of suspected racist incidents in Oxford recently including one at a Jewish centre off Cowley Road and another in a Headington park.

Many of the speakers at the event reference a political seachange in the UK, noting a resurgence of the far right. 

Tracy Walsh, from Oxford Unite Against Fascism, said that earlier in the decade the far right had been in dissaray, with Tommy Robinson leaving the English Defence League and the British National Party "falling apart". 

However, she added that the regained status of Mr Robinson, as well as comments by people like Boris Johnson and Steve Bannon, were helping the far right grow in confidence.

She said: "The far right are gaining confidence and the only way to stop this is through mass mobilisation."

One man in the crowd, former Abingdon MP Tom Benyon, tried to engage with some of the speakers, taking issue with their comments on Mr Johnson.

Mr Benyon defended the former Foreign Secretary's recent comments about Muslim women wearing veils, in which the MP compared them to "post boxes" and "bankrobbers".

He said: "In this country we have the right to free speech. I have the right to offend you just as you have the right to offend me...

"I've devoted my life to humanitarian causes and I don't like being deemed 'far right' by people simply because I don't agree with them."   

Today's rally has been dubbed a 'We Will Not Be Silenced' protest.