By Isabel Ringrose
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Anti-refugee riot in Liverpool is a terrible warning

This article is over 1 years, 4 months old
As well as building strikes, it's crucial to take up issues such as anti-racism
Issue 2842
Liverpool refugees: Group of anti-racist counter-protesters with Stand Up To Racism and Care4Calais banners

Counter-protesters stood up to the racists

There was a warning of what the far right is capable of on Friday as several hundred fascists and racists rioted outside a refugee hotel in Knowsley, Liverpool.

Around 450 thugs gathered around the Suites hotel shouting racist abuse. Some were armed with petrol bombs and set a police van on fire.

In videos posted online they said their aim was to attack the refugees inside the hotel. Given the opportunity, the protesters would have gladly raided the hotel and physically attacked the refugees inside, and perhaps killed people. 

This shows how dangerous the far right can be when they mobilise. The protest organisers manufactured claims that they were “defending children” to justify their violence.

Stand Up To Racism, Care4Calais and other anti-racist groups called a counter-protest. One counter-protester told Socialist Worker that 100 people attended to say refugees welcome and no to fascism and racism. 

Their presence was very important. But this wasn’t enough to counter the fascists’ numbers.

After breaking through police lines, sections of the racists blocked counter-protesters’ exits. Fascists launched fireworks at the hotel and counter-protesters who had made barricades. 

While organised fascist groups showed support for the riot online, Patriotic Alternative denied any involvement.

That doesn’t make the events any less dangerous. It shows the threat “concerned locals” who claim not to be far right carry when they organise against refugees.

The violence in Liverpool follows several other similar protests that have happened and more that are planned. The far right is presently a small minority, but it can grow if anti-racists don’t mobilise.

The far right is benefiting from the Tories’ relentless assaults on refugees. Stand Up To Racism said the attack was “the bitter fruits of Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s scapegoating of refugees which gives space to the racists and the far right.”

And support from some Tory MPs for those who carry out violent raids on refugee accommodation legitimises the racist hatred.

Dave from Liverpool SUTR reported to Socialist Worker, “Our numbers were too small. We held placards towards the residents. Any refugees looking down on us inside the hotel were in no doubt that we supported them.”

Anti-racists chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” and “Let in every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea.” 

Counter-protester Tristan told Socialist Worker, “We could see people in the windows watching and they saw the scenes unfold. The hotel was blocked off to the fascists because of where we stood.

“But seeing the violence the fascists are capable of makes it even more important for us to come together and show solidarity with people who are no doubt terrified.”

The racist protest was called on Instagram and Twitter after groups circulated videos of men, who they say live in the hotels, talking to young girls. They also called for the removal of “illegal immigrants” from hotels.

Those who attended the protest knew it was to show racist hostility to refugees. They chanted, “Get them”, “Rats” and held signs saying, “This is our city”. 

Bill Kimm is the RMT union Liverpool Five branch secretary. He told Socialist Worker from the protest, “These people are using refugees as scapegoats. If you’ve got a family and they’re in a war-torn country, wouldn’t you want to get out of that place and take your children and elderly parents with you into a safe environment?

“The people here tonight use ‘child safety’ to hide and deflect what type of people they really are.

“The Tories want working people fighting each other. While we’re doing that, we’re taking our eyes off what they’re doing, like bringing in anti-trade union laws. We’ve got more in common with each other as working class people than with the Tories.”

The assault in Liverpool echoes the violence against migrant and refugee hostels in parts of Europe and follows a petrol bombing at a Dover migrant centre in October last year.

And the Labour Party is no shield against the racist threat. Its leaders have let the Tories push on with their assaults, and even called for quicker refugee decisions to keep refugees out. 

Knowsley’s Labour MP George Howarth has said the protesters “do not represent this community” who otherwise welcome refugees. But Labour would never support welcoming all refugees, regardless of why they’ve come to Britain, or defend them against scapegoating.

And Howarth ignores that there certainly are some racists in Liverpool—and always have been. In 2005 Anthony Walker was murdered by racists with an axe not far from where Friday’s anti-refugee riot took place.

The real enemies of working class people are the rich and the politicians who profit from our misery. It’s not refugees who cut wages and push workers into hardship and poverty.

Anti-racists must mobilise at all protests the far right and racists call—whether it’s hard-core fascist groups or racists who paint themselves as “concerned locals”.

And anti-racism, support for refugees and class unity must be at the core of the strike movement workers are building.

Strikes and action that focus solely on pay and conditions and are removed from “political” issues aren’t enough. Fighting racism has to be at the centre of every working class battle.

  • Join the counter-protest against the Yorkshire Rose fascists, Saturday 18 February, 1pm, Holiday Inn, Express Park, Manvers Way, Rotherham, S63 7EQ. Called by Rotherham Trades Council, Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism. Details here
  • Demonstrate against racism. 18 March in London, Cardiff and Glasgow. Go here for details. 

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