'Horrid': The far-right extremists delivering hundreds of leaflets to city homes
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
A small group of far-right activists have sparked complaints after targeting parts of Norwich with leaflet drops - but police say they can’t do anything about it.
The group, called Patriotic Alternative, posted pamphlets through postboxes in Taverham and Mile Cross this month.
The leaflets are a mixture of anti-migrant and anti-vaccination sentiment and call for an end to immigration.
They are vague and contain little detail, but an investigation by the Hope Not Hate group has found that many of Patriotic Alternative's leaders are ex-BNP members who have expressed extreme far-right and racist views.
Patriotic Alternative's website proposes sending British passport holders of "immigrant descent" to their "ancestral homelands" by giving them money.
Leader Mark Collett appeared in a documentary called Young, Nazi and Proud in 2002 and has recommended Hitler’s Mein Kampf to his followers.
And one of their leading local members was arrested by police last year, aged just 16, for leafleting, but he was released with no further action.
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Mile Cross councillor Chrissie Rumsby contacted police when the "horrid" leaflets were posted around the area at the start of this month.
"At a time when we need to be community-minded, they are trying to stir up trouble," she said.
“There are enough problems in Mile Cross, with things like county lines, and we don’t need racists. There are a lot of people here from minority groups who want to get on and help the community.”
Hugh Stanners, from the Norwich branch of Stand up to Racism, said the group were trying to tap into anger at the Government over its Covid response.
“The government has annoyed a lot of people with its response to Covid and they are trying to get support from people who have been let down by the government's policies,” he said.
“But these leaflets are xenophobic. A tiny number of people are involved locally but sometimes a very small number can cause problems so we shouldn't be complacent about it.”
He added: “Imagine getting that through your door as someone from a minority group. We want people to feel welcome here and supported and Norwich has a long tradition of doing that.”
He said Stand Up To Racism would be leafleting the area in response with positive messages.
Who are they?
A recent report by anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate found Patriotic Alternative has become the most organised far-right group in the UK today.
The group has protested outside hotels where refugees have been housed, and delivered thousands of leaflets into homes with anti-migrant messages.
But they mix this with community acts such as litter-picking, feeding the homeless and day trips to art galleries.
Gregory Davis, one of the researchers of the report, said: “They are making a concerted effort to focus on community activities. They hope these activities will make them look fluffy and harmless.”
Joe Mulhall, director of research at Hope Not Hate, added: “The reality is that Patriotic Alternative is a deeply fascist organisation, and is, in fact, the largest fascist organisation active in the UK today.
“It is vital that we raise awareness now so that this group does not grow and become an acceptable face for hate.”
On its website, Patriotic Alternative describes itself as a "legal, non-violent, entirely above-board organisation who engages in peaceful community work and activism".
They said they had submitted an application to the Electoral Commission to be a political party "so that our supporters can carry out their democratic rights".
They added: "We disavow all forms for violence entirely and believe those who advocate for it are detrimental to the nationalist cause."
Schoolboy put ‘front and centre’
Mr Davis said the key players in the group are people who had been significant in previous far-right organisations, such as the BNP and the neo-Nazi group National Action, which was classed as a terrorist organisation by the UK government in 2016.
In the East of England, Patriotic Alternative’s regional organiser is ex-BNP figure, Steve Blake, who has been involved in the far-right scene for decades.
However, Mr Davis said teenagers were also joining up.
“It is clear from our research that different circumstances are making these young men vulnerable and PA are encouraging these young men to get involved,” he said.
In Norwich, he said a 17-year-old, called Barkley Walsh, was playing a major role in the group.
Walsh was arrested by police for “malicious communication” last autumn, aged 16, for distributing some of the group’s leaflets.
Police said the teenager was later released with no further action taken.
He later boasted online how it was “such a lovely feeling to get one back up on the state”.
He has been praised online by the group’s leader Mark Collett and is promoted on their social media channels as being part of their “Nationalist A-Team”.
Mr Davis said: “The adults behind this know these activities ruin young lives. Barkley Walsh has been put front and centre by them. In my view he is being exploited.”
Walsh has shared extremist content online, including a video of people appearing to do Nazi salutes and promoted a talk by the America white supremacist and former KKK leader, David Duke.
Walsh has been contacted for comment.
A national programme called Prevent is designed to deradicalise extremists, with people being referred by councils, police and schools.
In east England more people are referred to Prevent for far-right extremism than any other type of extremism. The biggest age groups being referred are boys aged under 15 and 15 to 20 year olds.
Last year, in east England, 230 people aged under 20 were referred to Prevent, more than half of all referrals.
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