United Kingdom

Counter-protest to reject far-right extremist group’s attempt to jump on local issues

LOCAL concerns over asylum seekers being placed into a hotel have been overridden by a national far-right group and an anti-racist counter-protest.

On Tuesday night, Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), in partnership with Paisley and Clydebank Trades Councils and locals, called a counter-protest to the local protest hijacked by extremist right-wing Patriotic Alternative (PA).

PA was reported to be attempting to use a local Facebook group set up by residents of Erskine, who are campaigners rallying against plans for almost 200 asylum seekers to be housed in the MGM Muthu Glasgow River Hotel.

Locals in Erskine have now postponed their action planned for Sunday outside the hotel and say they will “sit back… observe and let these groups with alternative motions have their day” and then resume their local campaign.

A spokesperson for SUTR said: “We welcome that more and more people originally unaware of the nature of PA have now publicly distanced themselves from them and from the hotel protest on Sunday.

READ MORE: Far-right extremists attempt ‘hijack’ of protest against asylum seeker hotel

“PA members are trying to stir up hatred in Erskine by exploiting concerns over asylum seekers being housed in the local hotel. Communities need funding, not racism and scapegoating.”

SUTR added that the counter-protest will go ahead on Sunday to “expose the fascist ideology at the heart of PA” and counter the attempt by PA to jump on and “poison” local issues against assylum seekers.

The local organisers originally thought PA was offering assistance as simply “experienced protesters” and after media highlighted PA’s previous campaigns, the Erskine local campaign organiser, Derek Stitt, said locals had decided to cut ties with group.

He said: “We are going to cut any ties with Patriotic Alternative that might have been forming. We thought the idea of having experienced protesters would help but our protest is a community one. We don’t want any trouble or violence or sending out political messages.

“We just want some answers from our government, local authorities, Mears and, the hotel itself as we have been completely left in the dark. We’re never consulted and still none the wiser to who exactly we have staying in the hotel.”

Erskine locals stress that at the core of their campaign is the concern of the town’s ability to cope with the asylum seekers and the lack of consultation.

Posting on the group, one organiser wrote that the reason for the group is “to vent our concerns and our anger at being completely left in the dark” by the hotel and local government. They also cite issues with the already stretched local healthcare and the further strain that they could be put under.

Far-right supporters from across the UK are reported to attend on Sunday, and a mobilisation call, SUTR are encouraging all who are against racist division to join them in sending a positive anti-racist message on Sunday.

Most of those housed in the hotel will be men aged between 18 and 40, the majority of whom have arrived from the Middle East. Approximately 20 men will arrive at the hotel per week until the 174-bed capacity is reached. One local reporter said some have started to arrive already.

The men will have access to English language classes in the hotel and be able to take part in voluntary work to assist in integration to the local community.

A spokesperson for the Hope Not Hate anti-fascist group said: “Patriotic Alternative have admitted that they’re keen to ‘jump on local issues’ because their true agenda of racism and extremism is one that has no appeal outside of a small fringe of online cranks.

“Anyone who attends this demonstration will rub shoulders with violent extremists and racists and then be used for that group’s propaganda.”

PA wants all non-white people removed from the UK, and was set up in 2019 by Mark Collett, formerly head of publicity for the British National Party (BNP). Smith himself is a former candidate of the BNP.

A Ferret investigation in early 2021, outed members of PA as neo-Nazis, former members of the BNP and Scottish Defence League (SDL).


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