Teenager arrested over violent protest outside Knowsley asylum hotel

Lit fireworks were thrown at officers and a police van was set alight after being attacked with hammers.
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A teenager arrested following protests outside a Knowsley hotel which has been housing asylum seekers will appear in court on Monday.

Jarad Skeete, 19, of Irwell Close, Aigburth, Liverpool, was among 15 people arrested amid the demonstration outside the Suites Hotel on Friday evening. He is accused of violent disorder and assault by beating of an emergency services worker.

Skeete has been remanded in custody and will appear at Wirral Adult Remand Court on 13 February. The remaining 14 people who were arrested – 12 men and two women who are mainly from the Knowsley area – have been conditionally bailed pending the outcome of police inquiries.

Merseyside Police said the violence, which has been condemned by politicians, left an officer and two members of the public with slight injuries. Lit fireworks were thrown at officers and a police van was set alight after being attacked with hammers.

On Saturday (11 February), asylum seeker Ahmed, who did not want to give his second name, said he had watched the protest from the window of the hotel. The teacher, who came to the country one month ago from Egypt, said: “I was afraid. We came to the UK for safety.”

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. Videos shared on social media appear to show a police van on fire and officers carrying riot shields in the area.

Three police have been arrested in connection with the incident. Here is all you need to know:

Protest sparked by social media claims

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said that prior to the protest “rumours and misinformation” had been circulated on social media following reports of an incident in Kirkby on Monday where a man made inappropriate advances towards a teenage girl. She said: “Following inquiries, a man in his 20s was arrested on Thursday in another part of the country on suspicion of a public order offence.

“A file was submitted to the CPS and on their advice he was released with no further action.” She added: “Violence is not the way to resolve this and we know that those involved in the violent activity last night used this as an excuse to commit violence and intimidate members of the public, who have a right to live their lives in peace and without fear.”

Alan Marsden, 59, from Stockbridge Village, told the PA news agency he attended the protest after seeing the allegations “on TikTok and online” but left when it became clear it was not peaceful. He said: “It was bad. Kids with masks and balaclavas on turned up. There were 300 or 400 people here.

“It was mostly women and children until all the hooligans turned up.”

“It was like a war zone”

Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was among 100 to 120 people from pro-migrant groups who went to the scene in reaction to the protest to show support for the asylum seekers.

She told the PA news agency: “I’m trying to get in touch with some of the poor men in that hotel, I can only imagine how frightened they are. It was like a war zone.”

Screengrab from video taken with permission from the facebook account of Tony Broster of protesters during a rally in Prescot, Merseyside. Picture: PAScreengrab from video taken with permission from the facebook account of Tony Broster of protesters during a rally in Prescot, Merseyside. Picture: PA
Screengrab from video taken with permission from the facebook account of Tony Broster of protesters during a rally in Prescot, Merseyside. Picture: PA

What have police said?

Assistant Chief Constable Paul White said: “We will always respect the right to protest when these are peaceful, but the scenes tonight were completely unacceptable, putting those present, our officers and the wider community in danger. Thankfully we have not had any serious injuries reported up to this point, but for officers and police vehicles to be damaged in the course of their duty protecting the public is disgraceful.

“We have arrested some of those suspects and will continue without hesitation to review all and any evidence which comes in, through CCTV, images or other information you may have.” The force said it had implemented a number of road closures on the East Lancs Road and urged motorists to avoid the area and those in the area to disperse.

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.”

Authorities “saddened and concerned” by the violent scenes

Labour MP Sir George 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.

“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.”

A burnt out police van after a demonstration outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside. Picture: PAA burnt out police van after a demonstration outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside. Picture: PA
A burnt out police van after a demonstration outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside. Picture: PA

Knowsley Council leader Cllr Graham Morgan said he was “saddened and concerned” by the violent clashes outside the hotel. He added: “The behaviour of those involved was totally unacceptable and has put safety of the local community, police officers and our emergency services on the scene, at risk.

“My message to the rest of our community is one of reassurance. This kind of behaviour is not welcome here and we will not let the wicked and mindless acts of a small minority destroy our community spirit and willingness to support others when in need.”

Protest has “brought shame on this country”

Mark Davies, head of communications and campaigns at the Refugee Council, said those who had participated in or encouraged Friday night’s protests had brought “shame on this country’s long and proud record” of helping those in need. “These are appalling scenes and our thoughts are with those staying at the hotel. This must be terrifying for them,” he said.

“All the evidence is that the majority of those who seek asylum in this country are refugees from places like Syria, Iran and Afghanistan who long to feel safe and secure in the UK. Those who encourage and take part in disorder like this bring shame on this country’s long and proud record of reaching out to support those in need wherever they come from.”

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