Outrage in Llantwit Major over far-right group’s planned protest

Demonstration by group with Neo-Nazi links condemned by seaside community

A PROTEST planned by the far-right group Patriotic Alternative has been condemned by residents of Llantwit Major.

The group, described as a “small but dangerous minority”, has stated online that it will be demonstrating against plans to build temporary housing in the town for refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.  

The demonstration, planned for March 25, is set to face a counter protest by various anti-racism groups.

What is Patriotic Alternative?

The group was formed in 2019 by the former director of publicity for the British National Party, Mark Collett.

Patriotic Alternative (PA) has previously held protests outside hotels hosting asylum seekers in places such as Erskine and Rotherham.

Several members of PA were spotted at a protest outside a hotel in Liverpool on February 10, which saw violent clashes with the police.

Despite the group’s growing presence, it only has a membership measuring in the low hundreds according to the anti-racism charity, Hope not Hate.

The temporary housing plans

Part of the proposed site.

Plans to build 90 units of temporary housing were announced on February 3 by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The units are set to be built on the site of the former Eagleswell Primary School and will house Ukrainian refugees.

Since the conflict began in 2022, the UK has taken in 161,400 refugees from Ukraine, the seventh most in Europe, according to Statista.

Described as non-permanent dwellings by the leader of the council, Lis Burnett, the units will house refugees, many of them families, for the duration of the war. They will only be closed once the situation in Ukraine is deemed stable enough for them to return home. 

The scheme is being funded through the council’s housing business plan as well as through financial support from the Welsh Government.

There is no place for this protest group in Llantwit Major or any communities.”

Alun Cairns, MP

“This is a significant investment by the council and Welsh Government that will provide high-quality short-term housing for those in need, such as refugees from the war in Ukraine,” said Mrs Burnett.

The plans have received negative feedback from some residents, who have expressed their frustration over the perceived lack of consultation between themselves and the council. There are also concerns that an influx of new residents could put increased pressure on local services.

An online petition calling for the site to be developed into a new health centre was set up in 2021 and received hundreds of signatures.

The council has stated that there are ongoing discussions to turn part of the site into a health centre once the temporary units are no longer needed.

Patriotic Alternative has stated that it is protesting the plans as it believes that immigrants should not be housed over those who are already homeless, including veterans of the armed forces.

However, these claims have been rebutted by groups such as Stand Up To Racism, who have stated that the topic of housing should not be turned into a narrative of “one at the expense of another”.

“There’s no reason whatsoever for the needs of migrants and refugees to be counterposed to homeless people, of course we want everyone to be housed,” said Ruth Brown, a spokesperson for the group.

“The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world, and it has more than enough resources to house everyone who needs housing in this country.”

According to the homelessness charity Crisis, more than 15,000 non-UK households were accepted as homeless in England in 2018.

Backlash from residents

The planned far-right protest has received almost universal condemnation from local residents and politicians.

“How dare they decide to come to our town and hold their protest,” said one resident on social media.

“This is Llantwit, our town filled with good, friendly, and welcoming people.”

Another said: “This is not welcomed in Llantwit, it is a charming and peaceful town.

“If we stand together, we can defeat these racists who seek to damage our community.”

The demonstration has also drawn strong reaction from local politicians, including the MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns.

“I am concerned to hear about these protests,” said Mr Cairns

The statement released by the club

“There is no place for this protest group in Llanwit Major or any communities. The community have legitimate questions in process and of how the council have handled the matters, but in a public meeting that I held recently, there was nothing but a warm welcome for the Ukrainian families.

“We need to remember the generosity of our communities to warmly welcome those in need.”

The local football club Llantwit Major AFC, which currently play in the second tier of the Welsh football pyramid, also expressed its concern at the protest.

In a statement on social media, the club stated that a member of the club is a Ukrainian refugee and that “they, and anyone else who wants to call Llantwit home, will always be welcome at our football club”.   

The statement went on: “We are proud that Llantwit Major is a community that welcomes everyone, and as part of that community we cannot sit back and watch this happen without comment.

“Racism, xenophobia, and discrimination has no place in Llantwit, football or anywhere.”

The counter-protest

In response to the PA demonstration, a counter-protest has been planned by several anti-racism groups.

One of these groups, Stand Up To Racism, is linked to the Unite Against Fascism group which was set up in 2003 to counter the rise of the BNP.

“We think it’s disgraceful and we and others have called a counter-protest to show that they will be a small minority,” added Ruth Brown.

The Welsh will not be conned into hating their fellow people.”

Welsh Underground Network

“They’re trying to promote division and hatred against the Ukrainian families that will be housed there, and I don’t think they will succeed as there are so many people wanting to get involved in resisting them.”

Another group taking part in the rally is the Welsh Underground Network, a local activist group.

“Patriotic Alternative are using the legitimate concerns of local residents about their lack of housing and healthcare to whip up hatred about refugees,” said a spokesperson for the group.

“Our aim is to stand side by side with the local community, and any other anti-fascist who wants to stand with us, to tell Patriotic Alternative that their hatred is not welcome here.

“We want to show them that the Welsh will not be conned into hating their fellow people.”