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Knowsley, immigration, Prevent and the return of the Far Right

Over the weekend, further anti-migrant protests continued in Rotherham and elsewhere following protests in Knowsley last week held outside a Hotel housing asylum seekers.  Roughly 300 people from the local area were involved initially, before around 150 far-right protesters joined later. Some threw fireworks and a group attacked a police van with hammers before setting it alight. One police officer and two members of the public suffered light injuries. Fifteen people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder, mostly from the local area.

Far-right agitators had played a significant part in the protest from the start. A video purporting to show an encounter between a 15-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man asking for her phone number was shared heavily, initially in fascist circles, with the unfounded claim that the man was an asylum seeker. It quickly gained a wider audience.

Three days before, the far-right group Patriotic Alternative had turned up outside the Hotel with a banner reading, “Europe belongs to the European.” Members distributed several hundred leaflets with the slogan, “5-star hotels for migrants whilst Brits freeze.”

Two days prior to Knowsley, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Suella Braverman welcomed the Shawcross review of Prevent, including its judgement that the programme had laid too much emphasis on the danger presented by extreme right ideology. “While obscuring the Islamist threat,” the home secretary told MPs, “Prevent has defined the extreme right-wing too broadly, encompassing the respectable right and centre-right.”

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