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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
11 Feb 2023

NextImg:15 Arrested in Merseyside After Police Van Burned at Protest at Migrant Hotel

Fifteen people have been arrested after a protest at a hotel housing asylum seekers descended into chaos on Friday.

Merseyside police said the protest was “initially peaceful” before a separate group of people turned up to make trouble. A police van was burnt and three people received minor injuries.

It comes after a man with a foreign accent allegedly made inappropriate remarks to a 15-year-girl.

At around 6:30 p.m. on Friday, a protest and a counter-protest were staged at the Suites Hotel on Ribblers Lane in Prescot, Knowsley. The hotel has been used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers since January 2022.

Police said a number of people who were “not part of the original protest group” turned up shortly after.

“And it is clear that they were only interested in causing trouble through violence and intimidation without any thought, or care, for other members of the public, or our officers,” Merseyside police said in a statement on Saturday.

“Missiles including lit fireworks were thrown at officers and one of our police vans was attacked by offenders, using hammers before setting it on fire,” the statement said, adding that one officer and two members of the public received slight injuries.

Screengrab from video taken with permission from the facebook account of Tony Broster of protesters during a rally in Prescot, Merseyside, England, on Feb. 10, 2023. (Tony Broster via PA Media)

Police arrested 13 men and two women aged between 13 and 54 on suspicion of Violent Disorder. They were taken to police stations across Merseyside for questioning.

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said the group that turned up later “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,” she said.

Kennedy said officers will continue to gather evidence to identify other suspects.

“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,” she said, referring to a video circulated on social media that showed a 15-year-old girl being approached by a 25-year-old man with broken English around nearby Kirkby Leisure Centre on Feb. 6.

The video appeared to be discreetly filmed by the girl and didn’t show the faces of those involved. The man said he was 25 while the girl said she was 15.

The man then could be heard saying what sounded like “I want … girlfriend,” although the audio was not clear. He stood still in the video and didn’t make any physical movement towards the girl.

It’s unclear whether the man was an asylum seeker or whether he lived at the hotel.

Following the incident, some Twitter accounts which shared the video claimed migrants were “allegedly molesting and grooming children.”

Between the 1980s and the 2010s, more than a thousand white girls, many of whom were from working-class families, were targeted by predominantly Pakistani grooming gangs in Rochdale and other towns.

Greater Manchester Police last year apologised for failing to protect the victims, many of whom were ignored over a fear of being labelled as racist.

But earlier this year, a woman was convicted after posing as a grooming gang victim on Facebook.

Kennedy said the Kirkby incident was reported to the police by members of the public but no victim was initially identified.

She also said following enquiries, a man in his 20s was arrested on Feb. 9 in another part of the country on suspicion of a public order offence, and he was released with no further action under the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“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,” she said.

“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,” she said.

Before the police clarified that the violence was perpetrated by a separate group of people, the protest was labelled by a number of pro-immigrant charities and some media outlets as being “far-right.”

An asylum seeker staying at the hotel from East Africa, who didn’t want to be named, told the PA news agency that people were praying and crying, but he said the locals “have been welcoming.”

Police outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, England, on Feb. 11, 2023. (Peter Powell/PA Media)

According to figures compiled by Parliament, asylum seekers and refugees, including the Ukrainians, the Afghans, and illegal immigrants, made up around 17 percent of immigrants to the UK in the year ending 2022.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the number made unprecedented level of pressure on the asylum system, including accomodation.

Knowsley Council said on Friday that the Home Office gave it less than 48 hours’ notice last year of its intention to temporarily house asylum seekers at the Suites Hotel.

“More than a year later, this temporary arrangement between the hotel and the Home Office remains in place,” the council said in a statement.