Villagers fight back after far-right protest over housing Ukrainian refugees in Llantwit Major
Two people have been released on bail following a far-right protest which took place in Llantwit Major in response to the development of a site to house refugees.
It comes after Vale of Glamorgan Council confirmed in January that an old primary school would be turned into temporary accommodation for people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Locals gathered in the town centre holding signs saying: "Llantwit Major together for peace, love, kindness and compassion" and "Llantwit Major refugees welcome fascists not!"
Far-right group, Patriotic Alternative, arrived in the village just before midday holding banners saying: "Wales is not a migrant camp. We will not be replaced" and "we were never asked".
Locals were heard telling the group "you're not wanted".
Police officers stood between the two groups until the crowd dispersed just before 1:30pm.
A 20-year-old man from Swansea and a 23-year-old woman from the Gwynedd were arrested and have since been released on bail.
Inspector Mark Henderson, from South Wales Police, said: “Officers have been present in Llantwit Major to facilitate peaceful protest and minimise disruption to the wider community.
“The protest was in the main peaceful however two protesters were arrested. A 20-year-old man from Swansea was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker.
Police stood between anti-racist demonstrators and the far-right group Patriotic Alternative.
“A 23-year-old woman from the Gwynedd area was arrested on suspicion of assault. Both were taken to custody.
“There are no other reported injuries and the protesters eventually dispersed without any further incident.”
The local church held an overnight vigil on Friday "as part of a concerted community response in favour of peace and welcome in the area".
Vicar of St Illtud’s Church, Fr Edwin Counsell said, “Llantwit Major is a generous and welcoming community. This vigil places prayer and togetherness at the centre of our life, and my prayer is that we will invite God’s blessing and peace to our town.”
Safya Khan-Ruf is a researcher at Hope not Hate. She told ITV News that Patriotic Alternative portrays itself as "inoffensive" and "local supporting".
She said that this is not the only local protest that the group has "tried to interfere in".
"Their MO is leaching in to local protests and trying to create more division, because there's no denying that there's anxiety in several places across the UK.
"You have people who have mixed feelings about the way the whole asylum seeker situation has been handled.
"What these groups have been doing is going into these communities, leafletting with messages about migrants taking over or being dangerous or over-running the place and targeting where they are supposed to be."
Plans to accommodate Ukrainian refugees include 90 accommodation units, which the local authority says would "provide high-quality, short-term housing for those in need, such as refugees from the war in Ukraine."
"With the war in Ukraine likely to continue for some time, these families now need more suitable accommodation. That is what the temporary homes in Llantwit Major will provide", the council added.
The temporary development will be designed for families, the council said, and will be offered to those who have been living with residents in the local authority area since 2022. Work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The council added it is "committed" to the aim from the Welsh Government that declared Wales as a "Nation of Sanctuary" - a desire to help improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.
The decision sparked debate in the area, creating what has been described as "unwelcome interest" from the far-right group, Patriotic Alternative.