The founder of a refugee charity said she felt “really frightened” and like she had entered a “war zone” when protesters clashed with police outside a hotel where asylum seekers were staying in Merseyside on Friday.
Clare Moseley, the founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was among 100 to 120 people from pro-migrant groups who went to the Suites Hotel in Knowsley after hearing there would be a protest against asylum seekers.
Merseyside Police have said they were dealing with an initially peaceful protest and counter-protest outside the hotel before protesters reportedly hurled missiles and damaged a police vehicle.
Ms Moseley, 52, who founded the charity in 2015, said the scenes that followed were “really shocking” and have left her worried for the safety of the asylum seekers.
She said she arrived at about 8.15pm and police had separated the protesters into their two respective groups, before violence erupted.
She said: “Somebody said that one of the (opposing) protesters had got on top of the police van.
“And then next thing you know somebody says they’ve set the police van on fire!
“And you looked and you could see fire coming out of the window of the police van.
“And you think, how on earth could they have got past the police cordon, got to the police van, got on top of it? There was a lot of police there.
“And then next thing the police van just completely exploded and there was a lot of fire, there was clouds of smoke, lots more police started coming down the road.
“You could see there was fighting starting to break and then the police started going down there in full riot gear.
“Groups of police with shields, full head to toe riot gear going down there.
“I’m trying to get in touch with some of the poor men in that hotel, I can only imagine how frightened they are.
“It was like a war zone.”
She added: “Next thing, we could hear fighting behind us as well as up the road and then somebody had told me that the (opposing protesters) had actually split into three groups, they had more or less surrounded us on different sides of us and the police were splitting up to go to the different groups.
“You could hear fighting from every side and rocks being thrown and glass breaking and they kept setting fireworks off up in the air and towards the hotel and down the road.”
She said the police cordon was getting pushed back towards her group, so officers relocated them to a carpark where they were unable to seek refuge in the hotel.
She added: “They moved all of us, there was maybe 100 of us, into the carpark of the building.
“The men sort of built a barricade across the carpark, they got some metal fences and bits of wood and bins and just built a barricade.
“But you could just hear hundreds of people and fighting moving more and more towards us, and we were stuck there for about half an hour and I must admit at that point it really was frightening.
“We were very scared because you could hear what was coming towards us and you could hear that it was a lot more people than us and you could hear that the police weren’t dealing with it and at that point we were really frightened. I was quite distressed.”
Eventually, she said four or five officers and a police van came and escorted them to safety but claims scuffles were still going on at this point.