8th Aug 2020

Poles and Muslims insulted after Brexit vote

  • Multiple incidents of hate speech against Poles and Muslims up and down the country (Photo: Ben Sutherland)

Polish people and Muslims in the UK have reported an outbreak of what British police are treating as “hate crimes” in the weekend following the Brexit vote.

In the London borough of Hammersmith, the glass doors of a Polish cultural centre, Posk, were daubed with a vulgar anti-Polish slogan on Sunday (25 June).

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  • Osborne: "We must ... condem hatred and division wehever we see it" (Photo:

Joanna Mludzinska, the Posk chairman, said in a video statement: “We were very disturbed and upset this morning to find really unpleasant graffiti all across the front of our building when staff came in. The police are investigating it as a racially-motivated crime”.

She added that “we have been very moved by our local councillors and MPs and our neighbours” who voiced support after the incident .

In the small town of Huntingdon, in south-east England, some schools and individual Polish residents on Friday morning found laminated cards that said “No more Polish Vermin” and “Go home, Polish scum” posted through their letterboxes or placed on the ground and weighed down by rocks.

Martin Brunning, a spokesman for the Cambridgeshire Police, told the BBC: “The production and distribution of this and any other similar material is committing the crime of inciting racial hatred which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison”.

The Polish ambassador to the UK, Witold Sobkow, said on Twitter: “I am sure British politicians, our friends, will join us in condemnation of hate motivated acts”.

George Osborne, the British finance minister, said on Monday: "We must bring unity of spirit and purpose and condemn hatred and division wherever we see it”.

Several British MPs also spoke out on social media and on TV.

Andy Slaughter, the opposition Labour Party MP for the Hammersmith borough, said the attack on the Posk club “disgusts” him.

He noted that Posk, most of whose members are second or third-generation British nationals, was created by Polish people who came to the UK during World War II to contribute to the British war effort.

Greg Hands, a ruling Conservative party MP for London’s Chelsea & Fulham district, called the Posk attack “indescribably awful”.

Other minorities

There were also multiple reports on social media of hate speech incidents against Italians, Muslims, Polish people and Romanians in schools, shops, streets and cafes up and down England.

Jess Phillips, a Labour MP who collated some of the Twitter reports, said: “I will be putting in a parliamentary question to find out all incidents of racial hatred in the UK this weekend compared with last week”.

Baroness Warsi, a member of the House of Lords for the Conservative party, who is of Pakistani origin, also collated reports.

One of them said a group of young men shouted “Get out, we voted ‘Leave’” at a Muslim girl in the street. Another report said a man in a Tesco supermarket yelled “Rule Britannia! Now get out” at a Muslim woman.

Warsi linked the incidents to the nature of the Leave campaign, which she abandoned half-way through. She told the Sky News broadcaster that the campaign had been “divisive and xenophobic”.

Denis MacShane, a former Labour MP and Europe minister, said: “In part, Brexit was always a xenophobic project with an ugly, anti-Polish tinge.”

The British police said on Monday it recorded 57 percent more hate-related incidents than in the previous weekend, but the total number was just 85.

Farage and Ukip

There were no statements from Leave campaign leaders condemning the incidents.

However, Nigel Farage, the head of the eurosceptic Ukip party, was quoted by The Express, an anti-EU tabloid, as saying that he also felt at risk.

"In 2014 and 2015, I've had all sorts of political opponents who weren't just prepared to use words, they were prepared to go further than that, they would have beaten me up, they would have killed me”, he said, adding that he has increased the number of his bodyguards.

"That's because I dared to talk about this subject that nobody else talked about”, he said.

The newspaper put images of Farage next to photos of Jo Cox, a pro-EU politician who was murdered a few days before the referendum by a man who later used nationalist slogans in his court appearance.


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