Demonstrators gathered in both Skegness and Newquay
Hundreds of protesters and counter demonstrators have taken to the streets over asylum seekers staying in hotels in two English seaside towns.
A rally of about 200 people took place in Skegness, Lincolnshire, while a protest and counter-protest occurred outside the Beresford Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on Saturday.
In Skegness, marchers clutched banners stating “no more refugees” while people chanted “we want our country back”.
Patriotic Alternative, designated as a far-right group by anti-racist campaigners Hope Not Hate, led a demonstration at Tower Gardens in Skegness near to the County Hotel used to house asylum seekers.
People clutched a Patriotic Alternative banner emblazoned with “stop the invasion we will not be replaced” and “you stay, migrants pay”.
Mark Collett and Laura Towler, who Hope Not Hate says are leaders of the group, were among those who gave speeches at the rally.
Lincolnshire Police said there were “no arrests or reported incidents” at the “Enough is Enough” demonstration in Skegness and the crowd “dispersed peacefully” when it finished.
Superintendent Pat Coates said: “We have a duty to uphold the right to lawful protest, which is a fundamental part of our democracy, and Lincolnshire Police facilitated that right today.
“During the day, our officers engaged with protesters, members of the local community, and visitors to the town while they were on patrol to help ease concerns and diffuse tensions.”
In Newquay, about 100 counter-protesters, with some clutching signs saying “Refugees welcome” and “Seeking asylum is a right not a crime”, gathered outside the hotel.
An opposing group of about 100 people stood on the other side of the street, with one holding up a sign saying: “You are anti-white racists.”
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said “officers were engaging with those in attendance to ensure everyone’s safety and facilitate peaceful protest” and no arrests were made.
In a statement, Rosie Carter, director of policy at anti-fascist campaign group Hope not Hate, said: “Far-right groups are trying to stir up tensions in local communities to further their own agendas.
“Hope not hate have seen a 102% increase in far right, anti-migrant activity in the last year.
“This huge increase in far-right, anti-migrant activity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
“It’s incumbent on the Government to end their inflammatory use of language that feeds and enables the far-right, put safeguards around hotels in place, and look again at their policies that have led to this dangerous situation in the first place.”
Jacob Morris, 22, a Patriotic Alternative supporter from Lincoln who was at the Skegness rally, said: “I’m protesting today against the council’s, and councils up and down the country, really, decision and her Majesty’s Government’s decision to put migrants across the Channel in hotels, three, four and five star hotels and it’s costing the British taxpayers millions.
“Especially when this country is facing a cost-of-living crisis, you think perhaps our Government should be spending on priorities.
“Ukrainians are one thing but a lot of these people crossing the Channel are certainly not Ukrainians, there’s been reports in the press a lot are from Albania and elsewhere. Albania hasn’t been at war for years, they’re a modern, stable country. We’re being taken advantage of in this country.”
He claimed there had been about “500 people” at the rally and added: “Our contention is a lot of these aren’t genuine asylum applications.”
He said there were two separate demonstrations in Skegness and “Patriotic Alternative organised and ran the static demonstration and had nothing to do with the marching demonstration down from the train station”, saying they had liaised with the police beforehand.
Asked if the group is racist, he said: “It’s not racist to stand up for your own people, that’s all I can say. We advocate for the white British people.”
It comes after a police van was set alight and fireworks were thrown during a protest outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, which is also housing asylum seekers, earlier this month.
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