LONDON (AP) – An anti-migration protest outside a hotel housing asylum seekers in northwest England turned violent and resulted in the arrest of 15 people, local police said Saturday.
Merseyside Police said a police officer and two civilians suffered minor injuries during Friday night’s disturbance in Knowsley, a village 13.5 kilometers (8.4 miles) from the city of Liverpool.
Police said some protesters threw objects and set a police van on fire. The arrested, aged between 13 and 54, were detained “after a violent disturbance”.
“A number of individuals who turned up at the Suites Hotel last night intended to use the planned protest to carry out violent and despicable behaviour,” said Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy. “They showed up armed with hammers and fireworks to cause as much trouble as possible, and their actions could have resulted in citizens and police officers being seriously injured, or worse,”
Speculation on social media about a man accused of inappropriately approaching teenage girls in a nearby town may have sparked demonstrations outside the hotel, Kennedy said. A man in his 20s was arrested elsewhere in England on Thursday “on suspicion of public order” but was later released on advice from child protection services, she said.
George Howarth, who represents Knowsley in the UK Parliament, said Friday night’s violence was not a reflection of the community.
“The people of Knowsley are not bigots and welcome people fleeing some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of a place of safety,” he said. “Those demonstrating against refugees at this protest tonight do not represent this community.”
Britain receives fewer asylum seekers than some other European countries, including France and Germany, but there has been a sharp increase in the number of people trying to reach the UK across the Channel in dinghies and other small boats.
More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain through this route in 2022, most of them claiming asylum. The asylum system has slowed to a crawl due to political turmoil and bureaucratic delays, leaving many migrants stranded in hotels or other temporary accommodation.
Channel crossings have become a hot political issue, with the Conservative government promising to “stop the boats”. Opponents accuse the government of demonizing desperate people fleeing war and poverty.
In October, a man set fire to a new arrivals processing center at the port of Dover. Police said he was motivated by extreme right-wing ideology. He killed himself after the attack.
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