Boy, 13, among 15 arrested after protest outside Suites Hotel in Knowsley
1 year ago
A police van was set alight and fireworks were thrown at officers during a protest outside a hotel housing asylum seekers in Knowsley.
Fifteen people, including a 13-year-old boy, have been arrested after a police van was set alight and fireworks were thrown at officers during a protest outside a hotel housing asylum seekers.
Thirteen men and two women, aged between 13 and 54 and mainly from the Knowsley area, are being questioned on suspicion of violent disorder after the demonstration outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley on Friday night, a spokesman for Merseyside Police said.
The force said the violence, which has been condemned by politicians, left an officer and two members of the public with slight injuries.
Lit fireworks were thrown at officers and a police van was attacked by protesters using hammers and then set alight, the spokesman said.
On Saturday, asylum seeker Ahmed, who did not want to give his second name, said he had watched the protest from the window of the hotel.
The teacher, who came to the country one month ago from Egypt, said: “I was afraid. We came to the UK for safety.”
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said that prior to the protest “rumours and misinformation” had been circulated on social media following reports of an incident in Kirkby on Monday where a man made inappropriate advances towards a teenage girl.
She said: “Following inquiries, a man in his 20s was arrested on Thursday in another part of the country on suspicion of a public order offence.
“A file was submitted to the CPS and on their advice he was released with no further action.”
She added: “Violence is not the way to resolve this and we know that those involved in the violent activity last night used this as an excuse to commit violence and intimidate members of the public, who have a right to live their lives in peace and without fear.”
Alan Marsden, 59, from Stockbridge Village, told the PA news agency he attended the protest after seeing the allegations “on TikTok and online” but left when it became clear it was not peaceful.
He said: “It was bad. Kids with masks and balaclavas on turned up. There were 300 or 400 people here.
“It was mostly women and children until all the hooligans turned up.”
On Saturday police remained outside the hotel, which has been used to accommodate asylum seekers since January 2022.
Knowsley MP Sir George Howarth said: “The people of Knowsley are not bigots and are welcoming to people escaping from some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of a place of safety.
“Those demonstrating against refugees at this protest tonight do not represent this community.”
Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was among 100 to 120 people from pro-migrant groups who went to the scene in reaction to the protest to show support for the asylum seekers.
She told PA: “I’m trying to get in touch with some of the poor men in that hotel, I can only imagine how frightened they are.
“It was like a war zone.”
Knowsley Council leader Graham Morgan said he was “saddened and concerned” by the violent clashes outside the hotel.
He added: “The behaviour of those involved was totally unacceptable and has put safety of the local community, police officers and our emergency services on the scene at risk.
“My message to the rest of our community is one of reassurance.
“This kind of behaviour is not welcome here and we will not let the wicked and mindless acts of a small minority destroy our community spirit and willingness to support others when in need.”
A dispersal order has been put in place in the area for 48 hours, police said.
Read Chief Constable Serena Kennedy’s full statement here:
“A number of individuals who turned up at the Suites Hotel last night were intent on using a planned protest to carry out violent and despicable behaviour. They turned up armed with hammers and fireworks to cause as much trouble as they could and their actions could have resulted in members of the public and police officers being seriously injured, or worse.
“Indeed, one of my officers was injured in the line of duty, as were a number of members of the public, and it is only through luck that no-one was more seriously injured or worse. A police van was also put of commission as a result of being set on fire. All of those arrested will now be questioned and we will continue to gather all evidence as part of this investigation and our officers are continuing to examine CCTV footage in a bid to identify anyone else involved.
“We understand that prior to this happening last night there were rumours, and misinformation, being circulated on social media following an incident earlier in the week. I am mindful of the risks that rumour and speculation bring and want to reassure the public that we are aware of an incident which happened at the beginning of the week and an investigation is ongoing.
“Detectives are investigating reports of an incident which occurred in Kirkby on Monday, 6 February, when a man made inappropriate advances toward a teenage girl. This was reported by members of the public to police, but no victim was initially identified. Following enquiries, a man in his 20s, was arrested on Thursday, 9 February, in another part of the country on suspicion of a public order offence. A file was submitted to the CPS and on their advice he was released with no further action.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that this is very much an ongoing investigation, and we would urge anyone who witnessed this incident, or who has any information, which could help us bring the offender to justice, to come forward.
“Social media speculation, misinformation and rumour can actually damage the outcome of investigations and cause unnecessary fear and consequent behaviour, so I would continue to ask people to be mindful of the damage that such actions can cause. We understand the concern that an incident can cause but I can assure you that the investigation is ongoing and we are doing everything we can to bring the offender to justice.
“Violence is not the way to resolve this and we know that those involved in the violent activity last night used this as an excuse to commit violence and intimidate members of the public, who have a right to live their lives in peace and without fear. There is no excuse for the violence that was carried out last night and we will arrest anyone who fails to heed this advice. Extra officers will be carrying out high visibility policing in the area in to reassure local residents and to prevent a repeat of this behaviour and the Local Policing team are always available to listen to concerns within the community and act on them. A Dispersal Order will also be in place from 1pm today for the next 48 hours to ensure that intent on such action are removed from the area, and if they return may be arrested.
“Merseyside Police and our partners will not tolerate groups of people targeting this premises and causing fear and distress to those residents inside; and to the local community, as well as the violence towards police officers carrying out their duty.”