What role did the far-right play in Knowsley’s night of violence?
Police vans were set alight and stones were thrown. ‘We’ve only just started going out again’ one of the asylum seekers tells The Post
Dear readers — it’s been a bleak weekend for the region. Friday night saw an ugly protest outside The Suites Hotel in Knowsley — where asylum seekers are currently staying — turn violent and 15 arrests have since been made. Today’s edition focuses on the role played by the “far-right”, whose presence in Knowsley it appears has been growing in recent weeks and months.
As always, the warmest of welcomes to the many of you who signed up as paid members over the weekend after Sophie’s brilliant interview with local writer, chronicler, cartographer, renderer of dreams and resenter of subpar developments, Jeff Young. It got a great response on social media with the Jeff Young fan club out in full force. “Paris has Rimbaud, Aragon, The Situationists and Patrick Modiano, and we're blessed to have Jeff Young,” read one of our favourite tweets.
Last week paying members received two great editions (they always do!). On Tuesday we took a look at the arguments surrounding the Eurovision volunteers debacle (for those out of the loop: the council are hiring 500 unpaid volunteers for the festival) which caused anger among trade unions and lots of people online. Here’s a taster:
“Twitter is an angry place, you’ll not be shocked to hear. And of its many sub-categories and niche corners, few are quite so irate as Liverpool Twitter. And yet, even in that context, the announcement that the council are seeking 500 unpaid volunteers to help out at Eurovision went down a stinker. The phrase “slave labour” was used on not a few occasions and mayor Joanne Anderson was repeatedly asked if she’ll be scrubbing toilets for free herself.”
And on Friday we looked at Sensor City, Liverpool’s troubled tech incubator, where promises of 1000 new jobs and visits from the chancellor quickly turned into big losses and a faulty heating system. “Great article. It fits in well with the piece about companies leaving Liverpool. The more these ‘failure orphans’ are acknowledged and discussed the better,” read one comment.
Coming up: Tomorrow we’ve got the second leg of Sophie’s Jeff Young two-parter, with further insights on Liverpool’s architectural triumphs and disasters, and on Thursday we’ll have our big interview with metro mayor Steve Rotheram. Remember: you’ll have to be signed up as a member to read both of those.
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This week’s weather
Monday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze with highs of 10°C
Tuesday ☀️ Sunny and a gentle breeze with highs of 13°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Drizzle and a gentle breeze with highs of 12°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 12°C
Friday 🌧️ Drizzle and a moderate breeze with highs of 13°C
Weekend ☀️ Gentle breezes all weekend with sun on Sunday and highs of 12°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Angry locals or far-right extremists: who was behind Knowsley’s violent protest?
Top line: The violent protests outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley on Friday night have become a national news story. 15 people have now been arrested and the events have been condemned by the government. However, the exact driving forces behind the protests remain muddied: we’ll be examining to what extent this can be called a “far-right” protest.
Context: A video posted on social media last week showed an adult man asking for the details of a 15-year-old girl. It occurred two and a half miles from the hotel. “You don’t do this in this country, you go to jail,” the girl tells the man. Police confirmed that a man was arrested “in a different part of the country” on suspicion of a public order offence but was released following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service. The video was widely shared, including in far-right circles and prompted flyers promoting a protest outside Suites Hotel.
What went down? It has been reported that around 400 people turned up on Friday, including counter-protestors and “anti-fascists”. Fireworks were lit, a police van was set alight and stones were thrown at the hotel (and police). Crowds jeered the police for “protecting nonces” and chanted “get them out” in reference to the migrants. 19-year-old Jared Skeete has since been charged with assaulting an emergency worker after the disorder broke out.
The main players? The phrase “far-right” has been widely tagged to the protest, and it is clear numerous such figures were involved, helped to promote the event online and — in some cases — had visited the hotel in recent weeks. These include:
Patriotic Alternative — As we reported last week, PA activists were in Knowsley a week prior to the protests with leaflets reading: “5 Star Hotels For Migrants Whilst Brits Freeze”. PA was set up by Mark Collett (a man who once described the Nuremberg rallies as “something that one would have been proud to be a part of”). The Post has seen messages sent by Collett into a Whatsapp group in the wake of the protest saying: “The TRUTH about what is happening right now in Kirkby is that the police are trying to incite white people to riot”.
Dylan Cresswell — Cresswell ran as an independent candidate in Anfield in 2021 and has made the news in the past for responding to a picture of a mosque on Facebook by saying: “Burn the fucking shithole to the floor.” He posted a number of videos from Friday night from outside the hotel and was a key player in promoting the event.
Britain First — a far-right political party founded in 2011 who filmed a video from the Suites Hotel in January, claiming that “all the illegal migrants were men in their 20s and 30s.” The party is a leading force in the harassment of migrants in the UK.
Yorkshire Rose — a far-right Youtuber (real name Amanda Smith) who is known for filming videos of herself outside hotels containing migrants, an increasingly prominent practice in the north west. Smith was in Knowsley on Friday night and uploaded a video to her channel. “Well done scousers for leading the way, 90% of the country is fully with you,” reads one of many supportive replies.
However, while its apparent far-right rhetoric has played a role creating tensions in Knowsley in recent months, it is also clear that the protest itself wasn’t directly organised by any specific far-right group, but rather was a product of snowballing anger online. This has led to many denying the “far-right” tag in the aftermath, some claiming that a majority of protestors were merely concerned about the safety of local children. Several videos have been shared widely of locals claiming race played no role. One says:
“This isn't a race thing, we're not bothered about the colour of their skin. We're bothered about their intentions, and why they're here, what they're doing, what's their motive. They're trying to groom our children.”
Reaction: Labour’s Lisa Nandy pointed the finger at the government, saying it had created a “toxic mix” of anti-migrant rhetoric and poor service provision (indeed, The Post has learned that some migrants at the Suites have been there for over a year in the past). Home Secretary Suella Braverman condemned the events, saying that the “alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence”. Andrew Mitchell, the development minister, told the BBC that violence was “totally unjustifiable”.
The Post has spoken to one of the migrants housed in the Suites Hotel, who has been there since late last year. He told us Friday’s protests were the first he had seen of any issues, but that security at the hotel warned the migrants in advance “not to go out in the evening [on Friday]” and if they were already out, to stay clear. “Many people are very scared now and would not go out at the weekend,” he said, adding that the man in the widely circulated video left the hotel early in January. He told us his fellow asylum seekers in the hotel started going out in public again this morning, but only in groups of three or more and that a WhatsApp chat has been set up to alert any issues to security.
If you have any views or information about this story please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be reporting on it all week.
Your Post briefing
Two 15-year-olds — a boy and a girl — have been arrested on suspicion of murder after Brianna Ghey, 16, was stabbed to death in a park in Warrington. A statement from the police said that “emergency services were called to Linear Park in Culcheth by members of the public at 3.13pm [on Saturday] after Brianna’s body was found on a path”. She is said to have received multiple stab wounds. The force added that, although Ghey was transgender, there was “no evidence to suggest that the circumstances surrounding Brianna's death are hate related” at this time. The teenagers arrested are from the local area and are being held in custody.
What’s going on at Sacred Heart Catholic College? The school in Crosby is onto its seventh head teacher in less than three years and The Post understands there is frustration among parents, many of whom are said to be considering pulling their children out. One parent told us that things started to go downhill in 2010 when the charismatic and successful John Summerfield left following an “act of folly” (a judge’s words) in which he took a group of “slightly inebriated” teenagers up onto the roof during A-level celebrations and one of them fell through a skylight, fracturing his skull. The recent revolving door of heads started with the loss of Ian Walker in July 2020 (Walker had taken over from Summerfield) and, in the words of the parent, has seen a more consistent churn than the Everton managerial role. The very popular Andrew Nightingale has now left after less than a year for another job. Ofsted scores have worsened in recent years and numbers attending have dropped. “The parents of children in the school are very concerned,” said the source.
The Echo has faced widespread backlash on social media for a story about HGV lorry driver Lee Wright, who died in a tragic accident in 2021, which ran with the headline: “Steak-baked obsessed Greggs fan crushed under wheels of own lorry”. The bizarre story caused upset for a family member of Wright, who posted a critical reply on Facebook, and many noted the insensitive tone and inappropriate focus on Greggs (the most critical replies mentioned that stories with “Greggs” in the title are known to perform well on the website, which likely prompted the headline). Despite the backlash, the story remains live online and made the print edition of the paper. “The Echo wins the crass headline of the year award,” was one of the more polite responses.
Kings Dock is one step closer to a full makeover after two firms — BDP and Faithful+Gould — have been chosen to draw up plans for an eight acre waterfront redevelopment. Liverpool City Council want to see the space become a “residential-led, mixed-use development of international standard in design and sustainability, with the potential for a major cultural and/or leisure venue” and have specified that the new design must respect the heritage of the dock; something that has caused holy war to be waged in the past.
Home of the week
A royal blue beauty on Cecil Street in Wavertree with a modern fitted kitchen, three large bedrooms and a more-than-reasonable price: £170,000. The coup de grace: the courtyard, a few square feet of tropical bliss perfect for a morning mug of coffee in the sun. Sold? Take a look here.
🧀 Cheese, charcuterie and charity converge at Wavertree Town Hall on Thursday. For the £20 entry fee you’ll get six cheeses to try out and a glass of wine, and your money will go to three charities chosen by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool: Liverpool Veterans HQ, Options for Supported Living and a group of organisations working to combat domestic violence. Have a look.
🎶 A somewhat more lively one: house and techno at Melodic in the Fabric District to celebrate the launch of a new label: Dreaming Forever. Its first record, according to a review, “speeds up a persistent arpeggio, loads it up with dive-bombing hoovers and weaves between sections of shoulder-checking breakbeats and svelte breakdowns”. Sound good? It’s 6pm on 18 February.
🎷 A tribute to the 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Festival in the next best place: Old Swan’s Old Library. With music from the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, the event celebrates the library’s links to “New York’s cultural powerhouses” (it’s one of the many Carnegie libraries across Europe) and costs £10 to enter.
🎭 And another event celebrates Liverpudlian-American connections. A new play — Stone on Stone — launches soon at the Epstein Theatre, telling the story of Charlie Chaplin’s visit to meet Toxteth-born trade unionist James Larkin in Sing Sing prison in New York in 1922. Tickets cost £15.
Our favourite reads
The Guardian go to Bootle and explore the wounds that never heal, 30 years on from one of the most infamous crimes Britain has ever seen: the abduction and murder of James Bulger from Bootle’s Strand shopping centre. The piece especially focuses on the media and political reaction to the killing, with ministers and tabloids pressing for harsher sentences and the lasting effect it had on attitudes to youth crime in the UK. “It was a catalyst for bringing in more punitive responses [towards children],” says Deena Haydon, a children’s rights researcher.
An interesting look at Liverpool’s music scene in the Echo following the closure of several significant venues with an understandably depressing headline: “Liverpool is a music city at risk of going quiet”. “The current climate is the hardest people in the region’s creative industry has faced, but the gloom is not all encompassing,” writes Elliot Ryder, noting the likes of 24 Kitchen Street in the Baltic and Meraki in the North Docks as venues bucking the trend. However, an adapt-or-die mentality has now set in and the venues that are still thriving are dotted sporadically around the city region map, removing the city centre nucleus that defined the movements of years gone by. A concerning read, if not a fatalistic one.
“West Lancashire has always been defined by its relationship with other places,” begins Paul Salverson in this piece for Unherd about the constituency’s recent by-election, which Labour won with an increased margin. Its main town — Skelmersdale — was populated by families who were cleared out of slum housing in 1960s Liverpool, and situated in the middle of a “rural, mostly Tory-voting wilderness”. The new arrivals were severed from their friends and existing lives and plonked down in a new, isolated state. As a result, Salverson suggests West Lancashire’s political setup is confused. Despite being politically and economically shaped by Liverpool, it falls under Lancashire County Council, which has far fewer resources available to it. It’s an interesting piece for those who like to get into the weeds of local governance.
Photo of the week
Summer 2014 in Liverpool, from Kristiaan D'Août’s Streets of Liverpool series.
Letters from readers
As someone who spent 6 months in the coworking space in Sensor City - it was great! (Because I was the only one ever there and it was like having a private office), ‘The Senselessness of Sensor City’, Adam Galloway
Looking forward to part two. To some extent, though, I’m conflicted. There’s often, to me at least, an elegiac or nostalgic tone to pieces like this. Do we look back more than we look forward in this part of the world? Or is it the same for everyone? On the other hand, you can’t look forward and form an emotional attachment to something that hasn’t happened yet, to a place that doesn’t yet exist, ‘Jeff Young, Liverpool’s chronicler, knows the secret to happiness: look up’, Rob Schofield
Don’t forget, tomorrow we are publishing Part 2 of our Jeff Young piece, in which he takes us on his tour of the city, including the Oriel Chambers, a former prison-turned-luxury-student-accomodation and the best hidden octopuses in town.