Eyewitness report: Fascist riot in Merseyside

11th February 2023


This report is about a riot by a far-right protest against refugees housed at the Suites Hotel, Merseyside, on the 10th February 2023. It has been written by a member of a smaller counter-protest and Liverpool Solidarity Federation member. The incident has received attention in national newspapers, for example it is currently number three trending on the BBC, but I do not believe that this reporting gives a full account on the events of that night. In particular, I feel the violence and threat of the fascist protesters to the refugees and the counter-protest has been downplayed in favour of images of one act of violence, the burning of a police van. Others on the left have made this a party political issue, the latest volley in a “Tories out” agenda which will be forgotten next week. However, the threat of fascist street violence will not be resolved by a change in government. It is a threat we have to take seriously in its own right as the organisation and violence of fascist forces seems to be increasing, and it is the opinion of the author that a change in state management cannot resolve an issue created by the logic of the state itself. Therefore I hope this report increases the vigilance of anti-fascists.


On 7th February it came to the attention of Liverpool Solidarity Federation, through Leeds Anti-Fascist Network, that a far-right demonstration against refugees was being planned for 8pm on the 10th February. The protest was held outside the Suites Hotel, Knowsley, which houses refugees. By the 9th a counter-protest had been called by several local anti-fascist groups, to meet at 6:30pm. I and three comrades attended the counter-protest, arriving at 7:15pm.

The inciting incident of the fascist protest was a video online which allegedly shows a man (who identifies himself as 35 years old) flirting with a young woman (who identifies herself as 15 years old), who rebuffs him. As the man spoke with broken English it was assumed by some that he was a refugee staying at the Suites. Most anti-fascists believe the protest was organised primarily by Patriotic Alternative, a fascist group formed in 2019 which claims 16,000 “supporters”, alongside others from a constellation of other far-right groups.[1] However, since the violence broke out Patriotic Alternative, which maintains an outwardly respectable appearance, denies this.[2] On the 9th February their North West branch released an incendiary video making several false claims about the supposed luxury the refugees were living in, in contrast to the poverty of Liverpool’s homeless population. It has received over 2,500 views at time of writing.[3]

The events of the day

Both the anti- and the fascist protest were situated on Ribblers Lane, the road between the Suites Hotel and a Holiday Inn, with around 100 metres between us. Both groups were close to entrances to the Suites’ parking, however a police cordon prevented access to either of us.

The counter-protest numbered around 100 people, perhaps a little more. It was difficult to make out the numbers of fascist protesters due to distance and the police lines, however we are certain they outnumbered us by a large margin. Rumours on the day started at 250 fascist protesters, but later in the night this swelled to 500. A police officer that night speculated that individuals were joining the fascists as their violence was broadcast on social media, looking for a fight rather than for political reasons. Mainstream news reporting at time of writing has only confirmed “several hundred” fascists. However, the Socialist Workers Party, who were present, has stated there were 450.[4]

Within the counter-protest, two notable groups included the SWP, whose recruitment methods lead to a highly visible presence at protests, and Care4Calais, whose founder Clare Moseley was present and who has given interviews to the Guardian and BBC on the events. However, the vast majority were not outwardly affiliated with one group or another. A significant proportion of counter-protesters were pensioners, who would have been in greater danger from fascist violence.

For the first hour of my and my comrades’ presence the protest followed a predictable and peaceful pattern: chants were exchanged with the fascist camp and many waved or held their supportive signs to the refugees, who could always be seen watching from their windows. Many of them, it must be said, were children. At one point two fascists attempted to enter our protest from behind. One fled on being spotted while the other was led away by police. Rumours that more fascists were approaching from the rear were a constant feature that night.

Around 8pm we could see that the fascist camp was throwing objects at the police line. The police presence on the fascist side began increasing: at the beginning of the night they had slightly more than us, but by the end we had the company of 6 or 7 regular officers while they had two dozen riot cops visible and undoubtedly more out of sight. Between 8:15pm and 8:30pm we saw that a police van which had been parked within the fascist camp had flames growing within it. Videos posted on social media showed that fascists armed with sledgehammers had broken into it and looted riot shields first.[5] There was a sense of excitement amongst the counter-protest initially, but we grew disquieted as it became clear how violent the fascist camp were. Some attempted to climb the gating around the Suites Hotel to enter the facilities. The BBC article on the event states, “the protesters had broken through police lines to surround the hotel at around 20:15 GMT”.[6] However, I was not an eyewitness to this and cannot clarify what they mean.

There were some signs of panic amongst police as they rushed vans and riot officers through our group to counter them. I believe I witnessed a group of riot officers approach the fascists from their right in order to begin clearing them off Ribblers Lane, however I cannot say for certain; a counter-protester told me that the police had eventually managed to form two lines between us and them.

Around 9pm rumours began that a large group of fascists had surrounded the two routes available out of Ribblers Lane. This has been confirmed by multiple outlets to be true. A police officer said that there were 60 to 70 members of these groups. I believe given the availability of weapons and predication for violence on the fascist side that these groups, had they broken through police lines formed in the rear, would have beaten the counter-protest in a physical confrontation. We were advised by the police to enter the gated parking area of the Holiday Inn, across from the Suites, which the counter-protest did. Soon there was just the occasional group of police officers on our half of Ribblers Lane. We began barricading the entrance to the parking area with metal fences and heavy objects such as dumpsters, while some found potential weapons such as scrap metal or the handles of protest signs, should the fascists break through.

Fireworks began to be set off by the fascists. Initially they were, I believe, aimed towards our previous position, but thankfully fell short. At least one was aimed at the Suites Hotel itself. Many more, over a dozen, were aimed at the police lines and some fell into the Holiday Inn parking, though on the other side of the hotel and therefore of no threat to us. The Holiday Inn had locked its doors to deny us shelter or use of facilities. The police promised to ask them to reconsider but to no avail (as noted there were many pensioners with us and, it was said, one pregnant woman).

Thankfully, around 10pm we were informed by the police that one of the routes out of Ribblers Lane had been cleared and we restored the objects of the barricades to where we found them. The counter-protest left in one large group without incident. Sounds of fireworks and shouting could still be heard on Ribblers Lane as we left. It was said at the time that some police had been injured, however news reports since have claimed no injuries and three arrests. I did not believe anyone in the counter-protest to have been physically injured at the time or since.


Neither I nor my comrades that night were experienced anti-fascist protesters, but even we could see that this was one of the most violent and intense far-right gatherings in recent times. In arming themselves before the protest and in coordinating our encirclement, the fascist forces proved to be much more organised and enraged than we or anyone else at the counter-protest anticipated. There have been incidents of fire-bombings of migrant residences in Europe multiple times, for example a lone wolf attack in Dover last year which injured two,[7] but I wonder if this is the largest group of anti-refugee arsonists in recent times.

Liverpool has a reputation as a strong centre-left city but I and others have been mistaken at taking this at face value: clearly there is also a subculture of militant fascism underlying this. National politicians of all parties, alongside the media and others with something to gain, have taken advantage of popular anger to scapegoat refugees. But as stated earlier, there are fundamental issues with our system which means this subculture is a natural expression of the orderly working of the system: a fantasy of a common national community, of politicians who care, of material luxury, are what uphold the system; and when they can never be met it is the worst-off in society who are blamed.

Given how outnumbered we were, I am proud our camp kept a clear head and prepared to defend ourselves. I am also glad it proved to be unnecessary. We can hope that this night was an outlier in our fight for a better world, but hopefully anti-fascists take it seriously. The thought of what would have happened had these violent thugs and racists had breached the Suites Hotel is horrifying to consider, and I feel deep regret that so many refugees witnessed this outpouring of hatred.

[1] According to their website, https://www.patrioticalternative.org.uk/about. Of course, an easy distinction can be made between “supporters” and “members”.

[2] See this Guardian article on the incident, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/feb/10/far-right-demonstrators-clash-with-police-at-liverpool-hotel-housing-asylum-seekers.

[3] This video can be found here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUlHXoK0s6U. The false nature of their claims has been noted by the Guardian article cited elsewhere; this video also contains the bizarre claim that Patriotic Alternative cannot hand out toothpaste to the homeless because they lack teeth. The author can confirm this is untrue.

[4] See the Guardian article on the former, and for the SWP, https://web.archive.org/web/20230211180441/https://socialistworker.co.uk/news/anti-refugee-riot-in-liverpool-is-a-terrible-warning/.

[5] According to this Liverpool Echo article, https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/pictures-show-aftermath-suites-hotel-26214373.

[6] The BBC article can be found here, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-64600806.

[7] The Guardian article can be found here, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/nov/02/migrant-centre-attacker-planned-to-obliterate-muslim-children-in-final-tweet

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