Racist phone calls, baton attacks and blood drawn: spate of hate crimes linked to Knowsley hotel protest
Plus: are anti-abortion groups on the rise around Liverpool?
Dear readers — welcome back to The Post, a place of higher, transcendent thought. We hope you enjoyed Jack’s weekend read, which took us to meet the Skelmersdale transcendental meditation community. It was — in the view of one especially enlightened reader — “the kind of article that made me subscribe”. And tempting though it may be to pack this newsletter in and head for the Himylayas to become a sanyasi, who else is going to provide high-quality, clickbait-free journalism to Liverpool and the city region? Well exactly. In today’s edition we’ve got:
Our Big Story, which takes us back to the scene of last month’s anti-asylum seeker riots in Knowsley, where police are now looking into a number of hate crimes
Post Picks, with the return of Bootle’s favourite music festival and “the best Chilean singer-songwriter of his generation” heading to Liverpool
Your Post Briefing, including the Robbie Fowler-backed development that remains a pile of rubble and a supposed uptick in anti-abortion protests
Last week paying members received two great editions. On Tuesday we hung out in William Roscoe’s old haunt, The Athenaeum, a private member’s club hidden away a few yards from Primark, boasting early copies of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence.
“The Athenaeum is Liverpool’s pre-eminent and grandest private members’ club and, as such, I imagine it will be populated by the city’s great and good. I’m not quite sure what this will look like in reality, but in my mind’s eye it means Steve Rotheram; half drunk on Martinis and sprawled out on an emerald chaise lounge, or Paul McCartney’s brother; manspreading in a jacuzzi in golden trunks with a Churchillian cigar protruding from his mouth.”
Then on Thursday we exposed a previously unseen report from 2019 investigating County Ward councillor Gerard Woodhouse, which included allegations that he acted as a trustee for an organisation that was not legitimately constituted but took £20,240 in public money. The piece shined a light on potential misuse of public money and prompted loads of comments. “Another great article. Keep up the good work,” wrote one reader. “This is the kind of reporting I want from The Post,” said another. Woodhouse strongly denies all wrongdoing.
Editor’s note: Thanks to the dozen or so of you who signed up over the weekend, taking us ever closer to the Holy Grail of 1000 paying members. If you haven’t signed up yet join us now for the remarkably reasonable price of £7 a month (or £65 a year) to read all of our content and support the journalism we do. Paying members are the backbone of The Post and the reason we’re able to exist and expand. As always, we’re so, so grateful.
This week’s weather
Monday 🌧️ Drizzle and a moderate breeze with highs of 15°C
Tuesday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 13°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light rain and a fresh breeze with highs of 11°C
Thursday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 11°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 11°C
Weekend 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 10°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The Big Story: Knowsley sees a surge in ‘hate crimes’ in the wake of anti-asylum seeker protest
Top line: Merseyside Police are investigating multiple incidents of refugees being attacked and abused near the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, in the wake of last month’s violent protest in which a police van was set alight.
Recap: Our long-read from last month looked into the complex web of factors that caused the riot. In that piece, we detailed how febrile the atmosphere towards the residents of the hotel had become since the protest, with multiple first hand accounts of verbal abuse in the days that followed and one Sudanese man telling us his life in Kirkby had changed “180 degrees”, explaining: “Before that I was walking around without fear, but now and after what happened, I am afraid to go out alone. I am afraid for my life.” Another account in that piece was as follows:
“One asylum seeker describes an incident where a group was making its way towards the market and a car with two women inside stopped next to them, lowered the window and began to shout. Again, he couldn’t make out what was being said but the women ‘made a sign with their fingers,’ before driving off.”
It now appears such incidents have become a running theme in the town. Karl Baldwin, Knowsley community policing superintendent for Merseyside Police, has said that “rumours and allegations” are being used as an excuse “to commit violence and intimidate members of the public.” According to Baldwin, 10 crimes related to the hotel are being investigated:
“These include assaults, malicious communications and verbal abuse, both of staff, residents and people wrongly assumed to be connected to the premises.”
The Independent details a number of the specific incidents that police are looking into, which include:
Three weeks after the protest two hotel residents were approached by “a gang of men who shouted threats and followed them into Southdene Park before attacking them,” inflicting minor injuries.
In another incident, a day later, a man was attacked by “two men armed with batons on electric bikes,” again inflicting minor injuries. As with the above incident, police are treating it as a hate crime.
The hotel also received a number of racist and obscene phone calls in the aftermath of the protest. A 51-year-old local man was arrested and is currently on bail.
The Post has also heard similar reports. A week after the protest we were shown messages from one of the residents who had spoken to us anonymously for our piece. The man described how two fellow residents at the hotel were attacked while drawing money out of an ATM. He said that while the injuries suffered were not serious, blood had been drawn and the police were called. The men were said to be shaken up by the attack, if not seriously hurt.
Bottom line: The original event outside the Suites Hotel drew in several disparate groups; professional out-of-town agitators from organised far-right parties; concerned local parents who had seen a video circulate on social media of a hotel resident speaking to a teenage girl in the town; teenagers who evidently just wanted to experience the thrill of breaking things. That mix led to some ambiguity and debate over how the event should be categorised, whether it was predominantly racist or far-right. However, with these incidents since the protest, police have been clear and there is little ambiguity: they are hate crimes targeted at ethnic minorities in the town, some of whom don’t even have anything to do with the hotel.
Your Post briefing
Are anti-abortion protests on the rise around Liverpool? A few weeks ago a source got in touch to tell us that these protests were increasing in number and expressed concern that they were linked to organised American groups (this would have precedent: last year our Sheffield-based sister publication reported on a US anti-abortion organisation called 40 Days for Life who had been holding prayer vigils outside the city’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital). Then, two days ago, a long Reddit thread on the Liverpool subreddit detailed recent protests, including one near to the Mather Avenue Tesco in the past few days with what the writer considered to be “the biggest poster I’ve ever seen”. Other protests have taken place outside the University of Liverpool in recent months and years. Whether or not this is a trend adopted from overseas or linked more directly isn’t yet clear, but we would like to follow up on this in the coming weeks. If you have any information about any groups behind anti-abortion protests in and around Liverpool, get in touch at email@example.com.
Mounds of rubble and collapsed hoardings are the defining features of St Anne’s Gardens, a luxury housing development backed by Robbie Fowler that was meant to conclude in 2021. Developers Elatus Developments, owned by businessman Robert Taylor, said that “reservation fees” had been taken from prospective buyers, but no deposits, with prices ranging from £90,000 to £190,000. One of the blocks has been “sold out”. Elatus told The Sun they had been working hard to fall in line with the council’s planning process which “has been complex”.
Good news for Bootle in last week’s budget. Sefton Council’s rejected Levelling Up bid from earlier this year — earmarking regeneration of the Strand shopping centre, Bootle high street and parts of Crosby — has now been accepted after the government pledged £279 million funding to 19 projects that had narrowly missed out last time around. The money will be used on a "more diverse and better-quality town centre” with a new food and drink, culture, arts and entertainment space along the canalside.
And finally, Kemal Coskuncay flew the flag for Liverpool at the British Kebab Awards last week, walking away with the coveted Best Chef gong. Coskuncay kebab’s can be found at Lark Lane’s Al Dente, and he works with a number of restaurants around the city. He started his career as a dishwasher in Bodrum before climbing the greasy skewer and rising through the ranks of Turkey’s resort restaurants. He now finds himself at the summit of a £2.2 billion industry. “I’m so happy to win this award but to be recognised by Scousers is even more special to me,” he said.
Home of the week
Grade II-listed real estate for £320,000 in the Wirral. Hawthorne House is named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great anti-puritan American writer (his work often centred on the inherent sin of humanity and Edgar Allen Poen called him “one of the few men of indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth”) who served as the US consul in Liverpool. It has six bedrooms and is located within the Riverbank Conservation Area of Rock Park, which boasts beautiful views of the Mersey Estuary. And who wouldn’t want to live in a home that takes its name from the writer of Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent.
🎶 One for the calendar: Bootle’s finest festival is returning for 2023. A two day affair with the likes of The Zutons and The Farm playing, it’s run by the people from community group Safe Regeneration, whose work in the town has been so impressive we paid them a visit in November. And do stop by the Lock & Quay pub while you’re over there. Tickets here.
🎨 Gangsta rap meets arts and crafts at Metrocola’s 90s Old School R&B Paint Party on Friday, where you can paint legendary New York rapper Notorious B.I.G while enjoying a complimentary drink (and wearing a complimentary bandana). Book here.
🎸 Ever find yourself at a loss on a Friday night wishing you could be witnessing the man described by American folk singer Joan Baez as “the best Chilean singer-songwriter of his generation”? Then you’re in luck: Nano Stern is bringing his “intense energy, youthful passion and exquisite musicality” to Liverpool. Book here.
🦆 Enjoy a stone-age inspired spring equinox at Lunt Meadows, home to 9000 years of history and more bird species than you’ll find anywhere else in Merseyside. Museum of Liverpool’s Honorary Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology, Ron Cowell, leads the way.
Our favourite reads
“On a February night 60 years ago, three young men battled through blizzard conditions to plant a bomb at a construction site in a lonely Welsh valley,” begins this Guardian piece on the famous protests against the drowning of Capel Celyn. The target of the men? A dam being built by an English water company to supply water for Liverpool. Neither the protests, nor the bombs, prevented the plans from going ahead; at the pull of a lever in 1965 the village was sunk forever. Now, the climate breakdown means water companies are once again looking to Wales for answers to water shortages, evoking some very painful memories.
While cities like New York are playgrounds of fantastical adventure in the imaginations of fiction writers, “the only time my hometown of Liverpool was depicted, it was either to show bricklayers in emotional turmoil or a family of smug benefit cheats stuffing money in a chicken,” writes Matt Barton in this potted history of un-real depictions of Merseyside for Penny Lane Dreadful. But while instances of Merseyside “being subjected to other-worldly phenomena” may seem thin on the ground, if you know where to look, you’ll find them. From Jules Verne’s nod to Birkenhead ship-building to Edge Hill’s favourite tunnel digging tobacco magnate Joseph Willamson’s turn in a series of Doctor Who, this piece gives a fine rundown.
“Where I grew up in Liverpool in the 70s, the era of the National Front, it was tough,” says Aamer Anwar in this BBC interview, looking back on his childhood before his rise to prominence as a human rights lawyer. Anwar, who is Pakistani, recalls coming home with bloodied clothes after fighting a boy who subjected him to racial abuse. “When his dad found out what happened he slapped his son for crying.” Despite his upbringing, Anwar made legal history in 1995 by successfully suing Strathclyde police for racially-aggravated assault, later taking up law and working multiple high profile cases, including that of Sheku Bayoh, who died while being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy.
Photo of the week
Japanese artist Taro Chiezo 'Superlambanana' gets a Eurovision inspired paint job. The sculpture has been in Liverpool since 1998 and was designed to warn of the dangers of genetically modified food while also reflecting Liverpool's history as a port city, trading in commodities such as Lancashire wool and bananas. Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images.
Letters from readers
Thanks for this, happy memories of visiting there during my time as a library manager in the city…including a lovely dinner with a very good friend of and member of the Atheneum who, it transpired, was a very close friend of a certain Joe Biden… ‘Liverpool’s most exclusive spot wants to be a little less…exclusive’, Will Reid
The MNF [Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund] is an absolute shambles. I've blogged about it quite a bit and it certainly doesn't seem to have improved or substantively changed post 2019. It really seems indicative of the culture at the council and their confidence that they would never face any scrutiny or consequences. It's a shame, because it is an important resource for many, ‘Exclusive: Gerard Woodhouse was investigated over allegations of ‘financial irregularity’’, thewilk