ITV News' Charlie Frost reports as a protest against refugees in Merseyside turns violent with a police van being set on fire
A 13-year-old boy is among 15 people arrested after violence erupted during a demonstration outside a hotel in Merseyside.
The Home Secretary has condemned disorder at the demonstration, adding “alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence”.
Police made the arrests after violence erupted during a demonstration outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, which is believed to house asylum seekers, on Friday night.
Suella Braverman wrote on Twitter: “I condemn the appalling disorder in Knowsley last night.
“The alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence and intimidation. Thank you to @MerseyPolice officers for keeping everyone safe.”
Protesters reportedly threw missiles and set fire to a police van at the rally against refugees on Friday night.
Merseyside Police said officers in Kirkby were dealing with two groups of protesters after a demonstration descended into chaos outside the hotel.
The 15 people arrested were between the ages of 13 and 54, the force said on Saturday afternoon.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The shameful and appalling scenes in Knowsley show how far right groups are using social media to organise and promote violence.
"Everyone should support Merseyside Police in dealing with extremism and violence.
"The Home Secretary is wrong to dismiss far right threats for political reasons.
"Instead she should be championing vigilance against all kinds of extremism."
Refugee charity Care4Calais were part of a counter-protest.
The group's founder Clare Moseley tweeted: "We are trapped in the car park, surrounded by hundreds of far-right protestors who have broken through police cordons. We are terrified."
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One man staying at the hotel, who did not want to be named, said: “It was burning and everybody was praying. People are crying and people are suffering from all angles.
“We come from different lifestyles so it doesn’t surprise me to see a vehicle burning.”
The man, from East Africa, said he had been staying in the hotel for seven months.
He said: “People have been welcoming here.”
The hotel has been used to accommodate asylum seekers since January 2022, according to Knowsley council.
Knowsley MP Sir George Howarth said the demonstration was triggered by “an alleged incident on social media” and criticised misinformation claiming refugees were “feather-bedded” inside.
Police said the protest and counter protest in Ribblers Lane was initially peaceful, but during the evening there have been reports of missiles being thrown.
Videos shared on social media appear to show a police van on fire. The force said there have been no reports of any injuries.
In a statement, it said: “Additional officers are in the area to deal with these incidents. We have also implemented a number of road closures on the East Lancs Road and would urge motorists to avoid the area and those in the area to disperse.”
On Saturday morning temporary barriers were in place across the entrance to the hotel in Ribblers Lane, Knowsley, and security in front a gate.
A police van was parked outside and two officers were seen patrolling the building.
Part of the road and fencing outside the hotel appeared burnt paving bricks in a section of the pavement were loose and there was some broken glass on the ground.
The police van seen on fire during the protest had been removed.
In a statement, Labour MP Sir George Howarth said: “I have referred an alleged incident posted on social media, which has triggered a demonstration outside the Suites Hotel, to Merseyside Police and Knowsley Council.
“Until the police have investigated the matter, it is too soon to jump to conclusions and the effort on the part of some to inflame the situation is emphatically wrong.
“If an offence has been committed, the police should deal with it appropriately through due process.
“In addition, the misinformation about refugees being feather-bedded is untrue and intended to paint a picture that does not at all represent the facts.
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“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.
“We are not like that and overwhelmingly behave with sympathy and kindness to others regardless of where they come from.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell tweeted: “Deeply shocking and concerning scenes of violence in Knowsley this evening.
“Utterly unacceptable behaviour, putting officers and public in danger. I am monitoring the situation closely. There is absolutely no excuses for this.”
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The scenes outside the hotel and violence toward police officers last night by a group of people in Merseyside were totally unacceptable.
“We are working closely with Merseyside Police and partners on the ground to ensure the safety of those in our care and the wider community.”
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