Family of Holocaust survivors were among the crowds that gathered at Morecambe’s war memorial to protest at a recent vandalism attack featuring a Nazi swastika and slogan.
The group included people with family links to Morecambe and Heysham servicemen who died in World War Two. A local Jewish man whose relatives experienced Nazi persecution in Adolf Hitler’s Germany was also present.
A swastika symbol and ‘Sieg Heil’ slogan was sprayed on the memorial last weekend, sparking alarm, dismay, offence and anger – and calls for action. Councillors, residents, people in businesses and regeneration, and police were among those attending the protest on Wednesday morning (August 23).
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The event was led by Coun Roger Dennison, the Mayor of Lancaster. He said: “One of the most horrific aspects of this is that it involved a Nazi symbol and slogan on a monument to those who fought Nazism. I think one of the important things is, again, to remember all those people who fought fascism. And to continue to fight extremism in all forms.”
A minute’s silence was observed, as a mark of respect to the servicemen named on the memorial, which was cleaned by council workers after the recent attack. Speaking informally, Labour Coun Joanne Ainscough said: “This attack is disgusting. My great-uncle’s name is on the war memorial – he was L J Artis. He was in the Seaforth Highlanders and was killed at Monte Casino.
“My family is a military family. My brother and nephew were in the King’s coronation recently. My brother was a warrant officer in the RAF and is now a reserve. My nephew is in the Scots Guards. My late dad, Geoff Halliwell, was in the Scots Guards and was also a police officer in Morecambe. Our family has been in Morecambe since 1929. Right-wing politics is on the rise across the world. This looks pre-meditated. It does not look like a kid did this Previous graffiti has targeted the Pride event. It’s not just this location.”
Malcolm Brown is secretary of the Morecambe and Heysham branch of Royal British Legion. He said: “I was first made aware of this on Facebook. I wasn’t aware of the details until I saw some photographs.
“Quite frankly, it’s disgusting and disrespectful that this should be done to a monument commemorating servicemen who died doing their duty. This monument is used for really important anniversaries such as Remembrance Sunday, VE Day and VJ Day. I don’t know what drives people to do something like that?
“I was in the merchant navy and served 15 years as an engineer. I also follow a family tradition with the Royal British Legion. My dad and grandfather were both standard bearers. I was a standard bearer for 30 years. Now my son is. My family has been bearing standards since 1936. This attack is offensive to families like our’s. I feel upset talking about it.”
Speaking to the assembled group, Labour Coun Phillip Black, the leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “I’m sure you are all disgusted by this vandalism. We are gathered here to show there is no place for these sentiments in our community. We stand together to represent the whole community and will face-down Nazism and extremism.”
Coun Black also read a list of people who were unable to attend the event but had sent messages of support including Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden. Speaking after the ceremony, Green Coun Caroline Jackson, deputy leader of the city council, said: “The vandalism of the memorial was appalling. I come from a family which was very much involved with the Second World War. I’m glad the community is here today, saying they want to work together and don’t want hatred and division.
“One of my reflections is about how many different groups have been targeted with these recent graffiti incidents. The gay and LBT community was targeted at the Pride event. And now the war memorial. Hitler targeted many communities including Travellers and disabled people. It’s seems to be easy for some people to hate others. But we need love.”
Lib-Dem Coun Peter Jackson said: “Today’s event is to show communities who may be concerned or feel targeted that we stand with them, right across the district and the political spectrum. Also it’s important that the police deal with this and anyone who may have information comes forward.”
Morecambe man Anthony Padgett, who is Jewish, grew up in the town and attended Morecambe High School as a youngster. Today, he works in range of arts activities and created The Praying Shell sculpture at Morecambe Bay. He said: “In Germany, the Nazis displaced one side of my family in Hamburg. There are various stories about that era from my relatives. I am also involved in a trade union. The Nazis persecuted trade unions too. For many reasons, I wanted to come here today to take a stand against fascism.
“The rise of fascism starts with single events and then escalates. I think it is important to take a stand at the start, not at the end. The community needs to come together and young people need educating about the terrible history of the past.”
Elena Jackson from art and regeneration firm Dec Publique was there too. Her organisation has created murals in Morecambe, some of which were vandalised recently. Labour Coun Margaret Pattison said: “It’s devastating. Whoever did this seems to know the Nazi signs and phrases really well. There have been various incidents of graffiti which I think began last summer.”
And Labour Coun David Whittaker added: “As a member of the LGBT community, events over recent weeks have started to make me feel uneasy. It’s important to oppose this and show Morecambe has a multi-cultural. I’ve had abuse and violence in the past. I;ve had some terrible abuse. We must take a stance and get police action on this.”
Police believe the graffiti attack was done to “cause offence” and will “not be tolerated”. After examining CCTV footage and the locations of the damage, police have determined that the suspected individual moved through Euston Road and onto Victoria Street.
They then went to Northumberland Street and along the Promenade, including the War Memorial. Police have released an image of a person they want to speak to, who appears to be wearing dark clothing with their hood up. It is understood the offences occurred in the early morning, around 1am on Saturday, August 19. Police have also appealed for dashcam or doorbell footage form the public who may have been in these locations at that time.
Dave Hannan, Chief Inspector, said: “This is an appalling offence, and the writing of racist and homophobic graffiti will not be tolerated. We are working hard to bring the offenders to justice. I appreciate the image we have provided is hard to work with, which is why we need your help. Any footage you have, doorbell or dashcam, could help us retrace their steps further. If you have any information, footage, or anything that you think may help us with this investigation, please contact 101 quoting log number 386 of August 19. Someone out there knows who did this, and we could strongly encourage anyone to come forward with information.
“I want to thank the community for their continued support. Our local neighbourhood teams will be out in the area, so please do speak to them if you have any concerns.”