Racist far-right violence in Knowsley and carefully crafted responses from police, politicians and media

On Friday evening (10th February 2023) an organised mob of violent far-right racist thugs went to Suites hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside where asylum seekers and refugees are resident.  The mob was planned in advance by extremist political groups. 

Merseyside Police chose not to take any action to stop the mob organising and gathering, and did not act on the night until the mob were violent toward police.  Those operational decisions contrasted starkly with police actions against environmental protesters who are routinely arrested in advance of any protest if police think they could be planning action, and differed considerably from police tactics against a vigil on Clapham Common, London for a murdered woman whereat police beat and arrested peaceful attendees under the pretext of Covid restrictions.

Members and supporters of volunteer-run refugee charity Care4Calais attended a peaceful gathering at the hotel as a show of solidarity with the residents.  A Care4Calais volunteer published an account of the mob’s behaviour: Far right riots at Liverpool hotel.

As the far right arrived it seemed huge numbers had been shipped in from out of town.  There were a large squad of police, but with sheer weight of numbers and conspicuously good organisation, they broke through police lines and reached a van.  They attacked and ransacked the van, and one thug clambered onto its roof before the mob set it on fire.  We became deeply concerned for our own safety and that of the refugees.  It seemed all hell was breaking loose: shouting, fireworks being thrown, more fires lit, and then what seemed like the burning van exploding.  As the mob advanced on the hotel, we were surrounded on three sides, and it became evident the police may not have enough resources to protect us from attack; we desperately barricaded the gates with any debris we could find.  We are still here as I write.”

Police account
Knowsley is policed by Merseyside Police.  The police force issued short statements during the violence and a summary statement on 11th February 2023.  The latter statement was intended as an account of the violence, an update on arrests and ensuing police action, and a description of the intent of people who took part. 

This statement was composed carefully, partly to dissuade criticism of the police and partly to ensure compliance with pervasive political perspectives of not criticising racist far-right ideology.

It began by failing to differentiate between intent of the mob of racist far-right thugs and intent of the peaceful people offering solidarity and support to residents of the hotel: “Officers were facilitating a peaceful protest and counter protest.”  It then chose to apportion blame for violence to only a subgroup of the mob: A short while later a number of people, who were not part of the original protest group, turned up, and it is clear that they were only interested in causing trouble through violence.”

There was deliberate direction of information by police in the two sentences quoted above

  • Equivalence of the mob and peaceful supporters of the residents of the hotel
  • Separation of intent and behaviour between “original protest group” and “a number of people
  • A number of people” hides the number

The “number of people” were the organisers of the event.  It is clear police wanted to excuse the mob’s intent and were keen to depict majority of attendees as local people with nonviolent intent. 

A quote from Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy stressed the chosen depiction of the event and the absolution of the intent of the majority of the mob.  She said “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.”  “A number of individuals” was purposefully vague; it could mean 99% or 1% of the total number.  The planned protest and the actions of the “number of individuals” were the same thing but Kennedy wanted to legitimise the protest by apportioning blame to a small part thereof – the “number.”

Police statement reported that “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” without saying whether it was “protest” or “counter protest” that was responsible, and ended its account of the event by saying “the crowds dispersed” with no reference to the fact that the mob was told to leave by police and the “counter protest” was able to leave later when it was safe to do so.

Most of Kennedy’s contribution to the police statement discussed an alleged incident involving a resident of the hotel and one or more teenage girls.  She said “we [Merseyside Police] 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.”  If there was “misinformation” why is “an investigation ongoing?”

She continued, at length

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.  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.”

Just to clarify, the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police issued a statement that sought to justify the gathering of a mob at a hotel where refugees and asylum seekers are resident, that sought to absolve the majority of the mob from blame by describing the existence of a subgroup – “a number of individuals,” and that included many more words on an alleged prior incident than on the violence of 10th February.  She said just one sentence regarding the safety and security of the residents of the hotel.

Serena Kennedy
Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy

Her comments, chosen carefully, were made in the context of and in agreement with prevailing government-promoted political perspective of othering refugees and asylum seekers and of accommodating racist, far-right ideology.  Her focus was appeasement of anti-refugee ideology.

Politicians’ reactions
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who recently congratulated herself on her use of words like “invasion” to describe asylum seekers and refugees when challenged by a survivor of the Holocaust, made sure she included the language and claims of the racist far-right in her single short statement about violence in Knowsley published more than eighteen hours later.

I condemn the appalling disorder in Knowsley last night.  The alleged behaviour of some asylum seekers is never an excuse for violence and intimidation.” – Braverman, 5-00pm 11th February 2023

Here is labour leader Keir Starmer’s statement in full:

” – Keir Starmer, 11th February 2023

Media coverage
It is clear that a mob of racist far-right thugs organised a large gang with the intent of being violent.  However, some media reports chose to present woolly accounts with notable omissions. 

BBC: In its authorless report the day after (11th February) BBC began by making sure readers were not informed who were the wrongdoers.  The sentences below (second and third in the report) were designed to make it ambiguous regarding which group set the van on fire and threw missiles. 

A police van was set on fire after a rally against refugees and a counter-protest by pro-migrant groups took place near the Suites Hotel, Knowsley.  Police said missiles were thrown at officers but there were no injuries.”  

BBC quoted Clare Moseley from Care4Calais.

She [Moseley] said she saw ‘hundreds’ who she described as ‘far-right’.”  

The tactic used by BBC with the above sentence is to reduce factual observations (by Clare Moseley) to opinions.  Nowhere in the report does BBC refer to the mob as far-right, right-wing or racist.  “The BBC is yet to establish the nature of the protest.”

The tone and the absence of information in BBC’s report is policy.  The objective is to avoid correct descriptions and present facts as opinions.  This policy was created by Tory-appointee Tim Davie who, in a speech to BBC staff on 3rd September 2020, said “we need to explore new ways of delivering impartiality, seeking a wider spectrum of views, finding new voices from across the nation.”  He meant eschew facts and give equal credence to every view.

Warrington Guardian: In the first two sentences of its authorless report local newspaper Warrington Guardian described the violence – “protesters hurled missiles and damaged a police van” – but stressed there were “two groups of protesters” (mob of violent far-right racist thugs; group of peaceful people showing solidarity with residents of the hotel) without saying that one “group” was enacting all the violence.  It’s a neat trick: The newspaper knows that many readers don’t read a wide variety of accounts of news events and the first few sentences in a report can set a tone.

Evening Standard: Similar to the Warrington Guardian, Lucas Cumiskey and Bill McLoughlin used the “two groups of protesters” and “protesters hurled missiles and damaged a police van” juxtaposition in their first few sentences without stating that it was one group – the mob of racist, far-right thugs – who were violent.

Similar to BBC, the authors presented facts as opinion: “Multiple asylum seeker advocacy groups accused protesters of being affiliated with the far right.”

Wirral Globe: Craig Mannings’s report said “a protest and counter protest was initially peaceful, but during the evening there have been reports of missiles being thrown.” He chose to avoid stating clearly that it was the mob of racist far-right thugs that was violent.

WalesOnline: Lucas Cumiskey and Stephen Pitts followed the same line as the above outlets. They said “police were dealing with two groups of protesters after a demonstration descended into chaos.”

The two key themes in the reports mentioned above are

  1. The deliberate failure to make clear that one “group of protesters” caused the violence coupled with deliberate adjacent highlighting that there were two groups
  2. The deliberate omission of the political ideology of the mob of racist far-right thugs.

The misdirection regarding not emphasising that one “group of protesters” caused the violence, after saying there were two groups, was a political decision.

Racist far-right violence in Knowsley and carefully crafted responses from police, politicians and media


In the first twelve months of the war in Ukraine (up to end of January 2023) the estimated number of people who died directly due to the conflict is over 300,000.  This includes soldiers and civilians. 

Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, European Union and NATO are steadfastly opposed to any action that could end the war.  They want continuity.  They also desire escalation.  

King Charles and President Zelenskyy, 8th February 2023

A couple of days ago (8th February 2023) professional actor and khaki cosplayer Zelenskyy continued his overseas tour with a visit to UK where he met unelected head of state Charles and spoke in Westminster Hall to a gooey-eyed audience of British politicians.  In his address he asked for military planes.  He has already received tanks but planes can cause much more damage and raise the kill count considerably. 

He did not ask for diplomacy to end the war.  He sought assistance to “win” the war.  “We know freedom will win.  We really know that victory will change the world.  The United Kingdom is marching with us towards, I think, the most important victory in our lifetimes.”  An actor read a bad script.  300,000 bodies produced by a war fought with tanks and infantry.  A war where civilian buildings are destroyed by weaponry that should be in museums.  A war where conscripted fighters battle and counter battle over the same destroyed towns.  A war where not one civilian in Ukraine is winning.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suits the arms industry.  Flow of weaponry to Ukraine from NATO countries, gratis, means governments (in Europe and North America) spend money on replacements.  Arms industry’s profits stagnate if there is no war: The weapons have to be used. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suits the fuel industry.  The first statements from politicians in NATO countries after the invasion were declarations of intent for higher fuel bills.  Repeatedly over the next year they blamed price rises for customers on the conflict.  Every time they made that claim they lied.  The most devastating price rises are in UK and are not due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; it is straightforward exploitative price-gouging and is supported and assisted by Tory government.  Governments of Norway and USA collaborated to stop flow of gas from Russia to Germany by damaging a pipeline via an explosion; fuel prices rose in Germany as a consequence.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suits agribusiness.  Ukraine is a large exporter of wheat.  “Investors,” otherwise known as thieves, seek control of the country’s economy – it’s income, it’s land.  It is being handed to them by the country’s president. 

On 23rd January (2023) Zelenskyy delivered a speech to USA’s National Association of State Chambers (NASC).  NASC’s stated mission is “to connect, and leverage state chambers of commerce so they can unite and mobilize the collective impact of employers in the promotion of free enterprise.”  On post-war Ukraine Zelenskyy told NASC

It is already clear that this will be the largest economic project of our time in Europe.  It is obvious that American business can become the locomotive that will once again push forward global economic growth.  We have already managed to attract attention and have cooperation with such giants of the international financial and investment world as Black Rock, J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs.  Everyone can become a big business by working with Ukraine.  In all sectors – from weapons and defence to construction, from communications to agriculture, from transport to IT, from banks to medicine.” – Zelenskyy speech to NASC, 23rd January 2023

Last year Ukrainian government destroyed workers’ rights, blocked trade union representation and handed exploitative power to employers.  Serhiy Guz explained that

In March, the Ukrainian parliament passed wartime legislation that severely curtailed the ability of trade unions to represent their members, introduced ‘suspension of employment’ (meaning employees are not fired, but their work and wages are suspended) and gave employers the right to unilaterally suspend collective agreements.  People who work in small and medium-sized firms – those which have up to 250 employees – would, in effect, be removed from the country’s existing labour laws and covered by individual contracts negotiated with their employer.  More than 70% of the Ukrainian workforce would be affected by this change.” – Serhiy Guz for OpenDemocracy, 20th May 2022

Zelenskyy is very wealthy.  His wealth was accrued recently.  It is not a consequence of income from his acting career nor from his salary as president.

The reception he received in Westminster Hall, statements made by MPs in the House Of Commons and public comments by politicians were adulatory.  He was greeted and applauded as a hero.  Prime Minister Sunak enjoyed some larping with him.

Zelenskyy Sunak
President Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Sunak

Proclamations of glorious victory and FREEDOM were declared.  Nominative indeterminate Tory MP James Cleverly spoke on behalf of all enemies of critical thinking. 

Cleverly’s party colleague Tobias Ellwood’s enthusiasm for “defence spending” never wavers and he expressed a keenness to enhance BAE Systems’ profits. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer and his front bench colleagues were supportive without nuance of continuation of the war.  In a ugly display during Prime Ministers Questions he became an assimilation of several characters from Dr. Strangelove as he sought to demonstrate his conservative principles.  He was so scared of being labelled an opponent of freedom or a prevaricator on Putin.  As “leader of the opposition” the only concept that Starmer is opposed to is being opposed to anything. 

Absence of critical thinking, of nuance, of contemplation, of preference for factual accuracy and of basic intelligence infused all commentary from conservative and liberal voices on Zelenskyy’s visit to UK.  The disease of conformity was exhaustively infectious.  It mirrored the disease caught by every politician and every servant journalist when the queen died: Queen’s death, king’s accession: Disease infests politicians and media.

If someone dares to try to assess the war in Ukraine via use of intelligence or via concern for people’s lives then that person is vilified as an enemy of democracy and freedom.  There is a particular grotesque irony in the accusation of enemy of democracy.  Zelenskyy removed democracy from Ukraine rapidly and completely.

Zelenskyy Sunak 2
“We’ll make £300,000,000 out of those 300,000.  That’s real freedom.”

Profits for the huge international arms, fuel and agribusiness industries trump everything.  Putin, Zelenskyy and NATO do not notice the absence of 300,000 lives, and many thousands more to follow.  Wave the flags, sing the anthems, applaud the leaders, praise the fighters and then enjoy the money. 

‘Apotheosis Of War’ by Vasily Vereshchagin, 1871

The war in Ukraine is being directed to last a long time and, when it ends, Ukraine will be handed to land-grabbing, public service-grabbing exploitative wealth grabbers.

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