Hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters have taken to the streets for asylum seekers staying in hotels in two English seaside towns.
A rally 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 reading “No more refugees” while people chanted “We want our country back”.
Patriotic Alternative, designated as a far-right group by anti-racist campaigners Hope Not Hate, led a demonstration in Tower Gardens in Skegness near 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 all claimed to be senior members of the group, were seen at the gathering. 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 “dispersed peacefully” 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, members of the local community and visitors to the city while on patrol to help defuse concerns and defuse tension.”
In Newquay, around 100 counter-protesters, some holding placards reading, “Refugees welcome” and “Asylum seeking is a right not a crime”, gathered outside the hotel.
A rival group of about 100 people stood on the other side of the street, one holding up a sign that read: “You are anti-white racists.”
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said “officers were engaging with those present to ensure everyone’s safety and to facilitate a peaceful protest” 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 incite tensions in local communities to advance their own agendas. Hope Not Hate has seen a 102% increase in far-right, anti-immigrant activity in the 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 language that fuels and enables the far right, put security measures around hotels and re-examine their policies that led to this dangerous situation in the first place.”
Jacob Morris, 22, a Patriotic Alternative supporter from Lincoln, who was at the Skegness rally, said: “I’m protesting today against the decision of the council and councils up and down the country, really, and the decision of Her Majesty’s Government It’s his majesty to put Channel migrants in hotels, three, four and five star hotels and it’s costing the British taxpayer millions.”
He claimed there were around “500 people” at the gathering and added: “Our contention is that many of these are not genuine asylum applications.”
Asked if the group was racist, he said: “It’s not racist to stand up for your own people, that’s all I can say. We stand up for the white British people.”
It 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 also houses asylum seekers, earlier this month.