Protest outside the Home Office, April 2022 Protest outside the Home Office, April 2022. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Scapegoating of refugees, desperation and poverty in working-class areas, and fascist organising all created the attack on the asylum seekers’ hotel, argues Michael Lavalette

There were horrific scenes in Knowsley, Merseyside, on Friday night, as a racist anti-refugee rally saw large crowds try to attack a counter protest of anti-racists and a hotel housing asylum seekers.

The rally was organised by the fascist organisation Patriotic Alternative. They have been attempting to protest outside hotels where refugees are housed over recent weeks, without much success. But last night they managed to attract large numbers of locals and things turned ugly as fascists went on the rampage.

The spark to last night’s events was a video that has been doing the rounds on social media. A young fifteen-year-old girl was approached by an older man and asked if she wanted to be his ‘girlfriend’. The video led to intervention by police and education services. The girl is safe and the man was interviewed by the authorities. Nevertheless, this video was used to whip up a racist frenzy about refugees.

Knowsley is a terribly poor, abandoned borough in Merseyside. There are few good jobs. Schools are poorly equipped and do not offer teaching to A-levels. There are high levels of poverty and local services are in a terrible state. This is the ‘managed decline’ taking place under years of local government controlled by Labour politicians. 

These social conditions, and the levels of alienation they breed, create the grounds where the far right can flourish. The far right point the finger at vulnerable refugees, and in abandoned communities they can gain a hearing. And of course, this is made so much easier for them when politicians and the mainstream media constantly punt their racist agendas. But none of this is inevitable. Where the left organises, we can counter the threat from the far right and join with communities to fight for better services for all.  

Knowsley is a wake-up call. 

We need to be vigilant as the far right try to exploit the crisis to blame vulnerable refugees for the problems created by successive Tory governments. Wherever they try to hold their protests, they must be met by the widest anti-racist counter demonstration. But we also need to develop our networks to fight poverty, unemployment and the destruction of our services. Building these networks will remove the space that the far right will try to exploit.

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