United Kingdom — U.K. police chiefs have called emergency meetings following an explosion in hate crimes across the country. The horrifying spike in racist attacks, which have come in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, has prompted police to call for enhanced sentencing for those convicted of such disorder.
Scores of incidents of hate crime and racial abuse have been recorded since last week’s Brexit vote. Attacks have included the verbal targeting of those on the street who appear visibly different, an increase in immigration rhetoric, violent assaults, and vandalism on buildings. A startling Facebook album called “Worrying Signs” has been created to document incidents in which people have allegedly been targeted with racist assaults and xenophobic comments. It includes details of attacks on Polish community centres, as well as instances of people being called “Paki’s” and told to“f*ck off back to your own country.”
Earlier this week, a man was injured when a petrol bomb was thrown into a Halal food store in Walsall. The following day, three people were arrested in connection with an incident on a tram in Manchester. The incident provoked horror from the public after a video that showed the men telling another passenger to “get back to Africa” while throwing beer on him was shared widely on social media.
Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman to be elected as a cabinet minister in the U.K., said earlier in the week the atmosphere on the street is not good. Some might argue her comments were an understatement, but the former government minister called on those in charge of the Leave campaign to admit the campaign has been“divisive” and “xenophobic.” Claiming some of those being abused have been in Britain for up to five generations, she added:
“I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying ‘Look, we voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave.’”
Although racist assaults since Friday have soared, hate crime in the U.K. is nothing new. Last year, areport by anti-Muslim hate monitoring group, Tell Mama, showed there was a 326% increase in hate crimes in 2015. That said, in four days, the number of crimes reported to police has escalated57% and prompted accusations the Brexit vote simply legitimised the prejudices of people. Similarly, former deputy leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harman, said the leaders of the Brexit campaign have engendered an atmosphere where some people believe it is now open season for racism and xenophobia.