Racist attacks on the rise after vote

By James Pheby

Cameron later slammed as "despicable" a series of racist incidents reported following Britain's decision to leave the European Union. Photo / Gettyimages
Cameron later slammed as "despicable" a series of racist incidents reported following Britain's decision to leave the European Union. Photo / Gettyimages

With yellow paint still evident on the building's doors, tenants of a Polish community centre in London yesterday described their fear after being targeted in a racist post-referendum attack condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament.

"The mood is a mixture of disgust and frightened. We've been here in the centre since 1962 and never encountered any racism," Joanna Ciechanowska, director of a gallery within the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) building in Hammersmith, told AFP.

"It is very worrying, I hear of some friends, travelling on a train, and all of a sudden the person next to them says, 'Go home and pack your bags'." She blamed the fractious referendum campaign for raising tensions, saying "if somebody has a grain of horribleness, it brought it out of them". The graffiti at the community centre read "F*** You, Out", according to a receptionist.

However around a dozen bouquets had been left on the front desk, along with messages of goodwill.

"We, the Brits, are very grateful to you for fighting alongside us in the war and for the enormous contribution you make to our society, we love you," said one. "That the result of the referendum seems to have been interpreted by some as a licence to express their racism and xenophobia is truly horrifying," added another.

Cameron later slammed as "despicable" a series of racist incidents reported following Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

"In the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, we've seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities," said the outgoing leader. "Let's remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country.

"We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks, they must be stamped out."

The Polish Embassy in London earlier said it was "shocked and deeply concerned" by incidents of abuse directed at the Polish community.

They include the posting of laminated cards reading "Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin" to members of the Polish community in Huntingdon, near Cambridge, at the weekend.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said there were 85 reports to True Vision, an online hate crime reporting site, between Thursday and Sunday, a rise of 57 per cent compared to the 54 over the same four days last month.

London mayor Sadiq Khan placed the city's police force on alert following the incidents. Photo / Gettyimages
London mayor Sadiq Khan placed the city's police force on alert following the incidents. Photo / Gettyimages

Khan said he took "seriously my responsibility to defend London's fantastic mix of diversity and tolerance.

"I've asked our police to be extra vigilant for any rise in cases of hate crime, and I'm calling on all Londoners to pull together and rally behind this great city."

John O'Connell, from anti-racism group Far Right Watch, said it had recorded more than 90 incidents in the last three days, ranging from "verbal abuse up to physical violence".

Meanwhile, pro-Brexit tabloid the Sun came under fire after running a story with the headline "Streets full of Polish shops, kids not speaking English ... but Union Jacks now flying high again".

Shashank Joshi, Senior Fellow at think-tank RUSI, called the article "absolutely vile", claiming that the paper will "bear some responsibility for the racist incidents and assaults this encourages".

AFP

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