Hundreds of protesters and counter-demonstrators took to the streets against asylum seekers staying in hotels in two English seaside towns.
A demonstration of around 200 people took place in Skegness, Lincolnshire, while a protest and counter-protest took place outside the Beresford Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on Saturday.
In Skegness, protesters held banners saying: “No more refugees”, while people chanted: “We want our country back”.
Patriotic Alternative, designated as a far-right group by anti-racist activists Hope Not Hate, led a demonstration in Tower Gardens in Skegness, close to the County Hotel used to house asylum seekers.
People held a Patriotic Alternative banner reading “Stop the invasion, we will not be replaced”.
Mark Collet, Laura Towler, Joe Marsh, Wesley Russell and Sam Melia, who claimed to be senior members of the group, were seen at the rally. Collet addressed the crowd.
Lincolnshire Police said there were “no arrests or incidents reported” at the “Enough is Enough” demonstration in Skegness, and the crowd “peacefully dispersed” when it ended.
Supt Pat Coates said: “We have a duty to uphold the right to lawful protest, which is a fundamental part of our democracy, and Lincolnshire Police facilitated that right today.
“During the day, our officers engaged with protesters, local community members and visitors to the city as they patrolled to help alleviate concerns and defuse tensions.”
In Newquay, around 100 counter-demonstrators, with some posters reading “Refugees are welcome” and “Seeking asylum is a right, not a crime”, gathered outside the hotel.
An opposing group of about 100 people stood across the street, with one of them holding a sign saying, “You are anti-white racists.”
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said “police officers were engaged with those present to ensure everyone’s safety and facilitate peaceful protests” and that no arrests had been made.
In a statement, Rosie Carter, director of policy at Hope Not Hate, said: “Far-right groups are trying to provoke tensions in local communities to further their own agendas. Hope Not Hate saw a 102% increase in far-right anti-immigrant activity last year.
“This huge increase in far-right anti-immigrant activity does not exist in a vacuum. It is up to the government to end the inflammatory use of language that fuels and empowers the far right, put safeguards in place around hotels and re-examine the policies that led to this perilous situation in the first place.”
Jacob Morris, 22, a Lincoln Patriotic Alternative supporter who was at the Skegness rally, said: “I am protesting today against the decision of the council, and councils across the country, really, and the decision of Her Majesty’s government to put migrants across the Channel in hotels, three, four and five star hotels and it is costing British taxpayers millions.”
He stated that there were around “500 people” at the rally and added: “Our view is that many of these are not genuine asylum claims.”
Asked if the group is racist, he said: “It’s not racist to stand up for your own people is all I can say. We stand for white British people.”
This comes after a police van was set on fire and fireworks were set off during a protest outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, which is also home to asylum seekers, earlier this month.